EMC launches cloud storage for VMware first, Microsoft's Hyper-V later

Built on an entirely new architecture known as the Symmetrix Virtual Matrix Architecture, EMC's new VMax departs from more customary data center storage arrays such as its own DMX-4 through its unprecedented scalability, contended Dave Donatelli, president of EMC's Storage Division, in a webcast today. The new Symmetrix V-Max storage array is designed to scale to tens of thousands of terabytes of storage and tens of millions of I/O operations per second.

The new array also uses APIs from VMware -- a company in which EMC holds majority ownership -- to automate provisioning of storage across hundreds of thousands of VMware virtual machines running on PC servers. But EMC will also provide a set of parallel capabilities for deployments of Microsoft's Hyper-V, predicted Simon Robinson, an analyst at the 451 Group.

"It would be silly for [V-Max] to work only on VMware," agreed Bob Woo, an IDC analyst, in a breakout session today. Many mid-market customers "have made a commitment to Hyper-V." Meanwhile, EMC and VMware have "maintained absolute independence," according to Woo.

"EMC [also] enables customers to intermix drives," EMC's Donatelli said during the webcast. Specifically, the V-Max will support these three storage tiers: EMC's tier 0 SSD Enterprise Flash Drives; tier 1 Fiber Channel drives; and tier 2 SATA Drives.

Based on a virtual matrix interconnect known as RapidIO and EMC's Enginuity storage OS, EMC's new storage architecture consists of commodity components that include 2.3 GHz Intel quad-core Xeon-based storage processors, and 16 host server and 16 disk I/O ports.

A feature called the Director is used to consolidate front-end and back-end functions with global memory, for faster I/O operations. EMC is offering iSCSI, gigabit Ethernet, and 4 Gbps FICON and Fibre Channel connectivity.

Analysts concurred that EMC's extensive support for three tiers of storage is a big breakthrough: "Tiered storage for large organizations used to be a choice between putting data on high-cost disk or low-cost tape. More recently, those disk options have expanded so that performance-oriented data can reside on faster Fibre Channel drives, with less critical data residing on slower but higher-capacity drives such as Serial ATA," according to the 451 Group's Robinson.

"Meanwhile, the emergence of [SSD] drive technology is establishing a new tier of storage, offering super-fast performance for the most demanding applications."

Tiered storage can save money for customers, but only "with careful planning and better understanding of your data types," IDC's Woo said today.

In a related set of enhancements, EMC plans improvements to Virtual LUN functionality that will provide the ability to move data across the tiers "non-disruptively," partly in hopes of spurring more SSD adoption. "Most interesting is that the Virtual LUN technology can migrate between any RAID type and any drive type, from flash through SATA drives," Robinson observed.

In still another pioneering move, EMC is enhancing its SDRF support with EDP, a capability that will use a combination of SRDF/S and SRDF/A technology for protection of both local and geographically remote storage.

"The new SRDF/EDP requires a total of three Symmetric [arrays] (the source Symmetrix, the target, and a third Symmetrix in the middle that acts as a 'pass-thru' array)," Robinson noted in a recent report.

"The unique feature of SRDF/EDP is the use of a pass-thru array...[which] requires no hosts and is used for what EMC claims is a 'no data loss' RPO (recovery point objective) since the local replication is synchronous. The pass-thru array essentially caches in-flight transactions on the way to the remote Symmetrix."

Innovations like these, together with EMC's expanding reach across the data center, are helping to position EMC better in relation to IBM and other competitors, Woo suggested.

"IBM has always been very open, [but] EMC is more than [just] a storage company," the analyst said today, pointing to EMC's buyout of security vendor RSA along with activities in consulting, backup and recovery, and content management. "EMC is likely to give IBM a run for its money."

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