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EMC walks away from SPC

Enterprise storage provider, EMC Corp. has quietly withdrawn itself from the Storage Performance Council (SPC),...

which until recently, has been an obscure industry organization devoted to establishing performance benchmarks for storage subsystems.

The SPC, created to provide a suite of benchmarks similar to the Transaction Processing Performance Council (TPC), an organization that defines transaction processing and database benchmarks, provides customers with vendor-neutral sets of tools to help evaluate the performance of competing storage devices. The three-year-old organization has recently announced the first industry-standard storage subsystem benchmark for public review, SPC-1.

"Other than EMC, all of the leading vendors participate," said Eric Stouffer, chairman of the SPC and program manager for IBM's performance design and evaluation in its storage subsystem division. "EMC's contributions in the past were valuable and we're disappointed that their interests don't seem to line up with the SPC."

EMC spokesperson Dave Farmer said that after more than two years of participation, EMC opted to withdraw from the SPC because of disagreements with the focus of some of the benchmarking.

"This decision was based on the fact that the SPC benchmark under consideration was focused exclusively on the back-end (between the controller and disk drive) performance," said Farmer. "It's like measuring a car's performance solely on gear ratio. This measurement has very little, if any, relevance to overall system performance and the value customers receive from EMC Symmetrix systems."

Farmer also said that the SPC did not reflect the environment in which EMC competes and said EMC believed the measurement of EMC systems against the SPC benchmark would be less than relevant its customers. Farmer said the decision was made on behalf of both the EMC Symmetrix and the Clariion product lines, which EMC acquired.

Roger Reich, SPC founder and former chairman of the council, disagrees. "We've worked very hard to come up with the benchmark to aide customers by giving them a fundamental selection methodology for storage subsystem products. The goal is to give the customer honest-to-god, quantitative fact about competitors in the market, so they can make an intelligent purchasing decision," he said. "The SPC simply wasn't in line with the goals of EMC."

Reich said that since the founding of the SPC three years ago, they have worked hard at making every major vendor a part of the group. "If you look, you'll see that they're all there, with the notable exception of EMC," he said. Notable members include IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems, Compaq Computer Corp. and Veritas Software. There is no love lost, however, between EMC and the remaining SPC members, all of which are aggressively penetrating EMC's accounts.

Reich also explained that the SPC's near-invisibility in the industry was integral in their ability to work unfettered. "Our objective was to be quiet so as not to be distracted by analysts and the press, well-wishers and snoopers. When we meet, the technical content is deep and it's fast." But with the release of the SPC's first benchmark for review last month, the SPC-1, it will be hard to maintain their stealthy approach to performance testing.

"We're starting to build a presence in the industry and we're going to actively start pursuing analysts and the media now that the benchmark is out for public review," said Reich.

According to EMC, they're not the only one dropping out of the SPC, citing that SPC's membership has thinned from 22 members to the current number of 13. However, the current chairman of the SPC said that the decrease in members can be accounted for by various mergers, acquisitions and financial issues. It in no way reflects any dissatisfaction with the PSC itself.

"Western Digital backed out for two reasons," said Stouffer. "One, because it is strictly a disk drive company, and two, they had significant financial problems. Those two factors combined caused them to withdraw," said Stouffer.

Microsoft was one of the first original founders but dropped out after the group began to gain momentum. "They're really not a storage company and the SPC never really played into their market."

Other members of the SPC include Agilent Technologies, Inc., Hitachi Ltd., Ideas International Party Ltd., LSI Logic Corp., NEC USA, Inc., and Adaptec, Inc.

"There's a comradery fostered at the SPC. There's occasional quibbling, but on the whole, every one says 'Let's do something good for the industry'," said Reich.

Both Stouffer and Reich said that despite EMC's departure, the progress of the SPC will not be seriously effected, but they hope to see EMC return to the table in the future. "I think EMC has great experts and an impressive position in the market, and we'd love to have them back on the council," said Reich.

EMC did not rule out future membership. "We continue to observe the activities of the council. In the event that future SPC benchmarks are more in line with our market, EMC will consider rejoining," said Farmer.

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