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EMC users suffer software headaches

Several EMC users at the Storage Decisions show complained about problems with EMC software, most notably installation issues and difficulties getting the same features running across multiple platforms.

Several large EMC users at the Storage Decisions show in New York last week would consider switching to new IBM or Hitachi products coming later this year, given the chance, has learned.

The primary reason, according to the majority of users we spoke with, is storage software problems.

LexisNexis recently purchased EMC's Controlcenter software to automate planning and provisioning tasks, but the software only added time to the problems LexisNexis already had, according to Greg Zastrow, manager of storage systems engineering at LexisNexis. The company has approximately 300 TBs of storage, 90% of which sits on EMC Symmetrix boxes.

"We tried to add Controlcenter but it was impossible; it should take 2 days to install, but it took several weeks," Zastrow says. When LexisNexis makes its next EMC purchase, which it will do soon, EMC has agreed to throw in some professional services support to help the company out of its Controlcenter fix.

In the meantime, LexisNexis is evaluating its options.

"We are thinking about positioning with a single server and storage provider for better pricing across the board and better end-to-end integration," Zastrow says. The most likely choice is IBM for mainframe storage and HDS for distributed storage. "We're not going to get rid of EMC quickly, but we don't want to have 3 vendors," he says.

Once bitten, twice shy

It turns out that LexisNexis isn't alone in its struggles with EMC software. Another user we spoke with, who would only tell his story on condition of anonymity, is finished with EMC. Right now, the company considers itself an "EMC shop" with 10 TBs of storage on 2 Symmetrix boxes. It recently purchased a Clariion CX600, and says it won't do that again.

"It's been disastrous," the source says. "We are looking outside now, primarily at HDS." In this instance, EMC couldn't get the same snapshot and mirroring functionality running on this company's Symm boxes to run on the CX600.

"Beyond a certain point of trying, they [EMC] gave up…How many people and how much time do you want to waste trying to fix something before it makes sense to just get in a new system?" the source says.

EMC ended up replacing the CX600 at this company with a DMX800 after two separate teams couldn't get the snapshot feature to work.

Other companies would like the chance to consider other vendors besides EMC, but their hands are tied. Lehman Brothers, which has 250-300 TBs of SAN storage and about 100 TBs of NAS, has just completed a technology refresh with EMC's latest DMX products. "The TCO [total cost of ownership] is kept down based on keeping the same vendor," says Dat Truong, vice president of storage engineering at Lehman Brothers. Whatever the problems, he says Lehman's expertise in-house is on EMC hardware and consequently that's what the company continues to buy.

The consensus among EMC users we spoke with, particularly among the financial community, was a need for better overall management. Users are desperate for tools that help them to see all the storage they have, not just EMC, and then a way to maximize the capacity they already have on these different systems for varying types of storage. So far, they say, no one is offering them this.

For more information:

Symmetrix woes, competition could hurt EMC in 2004

EMC's Clariion CX600 comes with a few surprises

Dig Deeper on Storage management tools

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