My first EMC World is in the books and it has been a great experience! This week has been full of technical and personal goodies so I just want to jot down some notes to recap.
First, from a personal perspective this has been the most valuable conference I’ve attended to date. I’m so lucky to work with one of the EMC Elect members, Lauren Malhoit (@malhoit), who let’s me tag along with her to a bunch of cool events. And also a special thanks to Matt Brender (@mjbrender) who also has been kind enough to let an outsider like myself experience a few of the super cool events the EMC Elect get to do. One such event was the tour of the SuperNAP data center which was ridiculously cool. There is so much technology there and we all left awestruck. I highly encourage everyone to take a look the next time you’re in Las Vegas. Thanks to Missy Young (@MissyByte) for the excellent tour; she really knows her stuff!
Then, of course, there were the parties where I got to meet really great people like Dave Henry (@davemhenry), Chuck Hollis (@chuckhollis), and a host of other EMC Elect members. I was astonished at how approachable and how easy it is to carry a conversation on with any of them. The EMC Elect program is really great so head over HERE to learn more about it and its members.
Now on to the technical takeaways! To keep this post relatively short and readable I’m staying very high level. I hope to have some follow-up posts to talk in more detail about some of these ideas so stay tuned.
I got to sit in on some very technical XtremIO sessions and this technology is truly remarkable and exciting! The array is just amazing with its in-line dedupe, snapshot capabilities, thin provisioning, and, of course, performance. This thing is going to be huge for those use cases that it makes sense in (read VDI, DB, etc). It will allow much less complex VDI deployments because you can eliminate Linked Clones and just run full desktops! Yes, the dedupe is that good!
There are also the other components to the EMC flash story which are XtremSF (Server Flash, formerly VFCache) and XtremSW (Software). The differentiators here are the CPU offload and the software which supports non-EMC flash & SSD. By including a CPU on the PCIe flash card we see an increase in performance due to the proximity of the CPU to the addressable memory space and we aren’t constrained by having to size our hosts to accommodate the overhead of using the PCIe flash cards. I’ve seen numbers around 20% CPU load at peak flash utilization just to give you an idea of how many CPU cycles we’re saving.
And last with regards to flash is the roadmap. I can’t really share that information but I just want to say that I’m really excited by what is in the works. And you will be too once the information becomes public!
Next Generation VNX
I definitely thought we were going to get a VNX2 announcement this week. Alas, we did not but we definitely got a taste of what will be coming later in the year. The next VNX will really be revolutionary from a performance perspective. EMC has rewritten the controller software, dubbed “MCx” to really take advantage of the multi-core multi-socket x86 Intel CPUs we have available today and in the future. We saw demo’s of IOMeter pushing over a million IOPS through a VNX with less than 2.5 ms latency. The CPU load was also extremely balanced across all 16 cores in the SP. This is going to be a game changer for the mid-tier array.
Another feature set we got to see was the addition of more “data services” to the VNX platform. From within Unisphere we will be able to, with a few simple mouse clicks, download and install things like McAfee antivirus onto the VNX itself. A few more examples are RecoverPoint as well as VPLEX. What does this mean and how does this work? The details will perhaps be in a follow-up post (if those details become available) but at a high level we’re virtualizing those services and then running those directly on the VNX presumably through a hypervisor. We didn’t get all the details so that absolutely an assumption on my part.
Last we got to see a true, production-ready, virtualized VNX or “vVNX”. This has been around for a while and even before the VNX was out in the form of a virtual Celerra which were used for labs and testing. However, the vVNX is going to be a supported piece of software that will support things like replication and most other VNX features. The really cool use case we saw was that the vVNX can run in a public cloud environment like Amazon and you’ll be able to replicate your production physical VNX to the cloud-based vVNX. Way cool!
I saved the best for last. ViPR won’t be GA for a few months and this is one of those (r)evolutionary steps that is tough to completely understand and articulate right now. It is really a game-changer and is truly exciting to just ponder all the possibilities we’ll have with this software. ViPR’s mission is separating the control plane from the data plane of the underlying storage infrastructure to create a truly software defined storage solution. With ViPR we will be able to take a heterogeneous storage environment (including non-EMC arrays and possibly DAS at some point) and provision, operate, and monitor everything from within a single console. This is going to fundamentally change how we design and manage our storage – which is a good thing! But it is going to take time, further understanding, and a willingness to embrace this shift. When this product does GA it will be lacking some features I’ve mentioned but the roadmap is feature-rich and aggressive. I can’t wait to dig deeper into ViPR and see where this rabbit hole takes our industry. There have definitely been some negative comments on ViPR from competitors but I don’t think they understand this product (how could they at this point?) and how it is going to disrupt the storage arena.
In conclusion it is clear that EMC is a software company. It is also clear that EMC roadmaps are in lockstep with those of VMware. Also, EMC is really doing a tremendous job at adding in support for 3rd party products into their software solutions and making sure that there are rich sets of RESTful API’s for the developers. Performance is king and even though they haven’t been first to market in some of these new technologies I believe this will mean better products at release time. I certainly look forward to learning more about all of this technology and comparing/contrasting it to everyone else in the marketplace. Thanks for reading!