EMC World 2013 took place in Las Vegas on May 6-9, 2013. This is the third year in a row EMC World has taken place in Las Vegas and the conference attracted a record number of attendees – around 13,000 company customers and partners.
The major theme for this year’s EMC World was Lead Your Transformation, focusing on helping IT professionals become “super heroes” within their enterprises.
The Major Announcements
During the course of the conference, EMC made four major announcements focusing on:
First, EMC confirmed the upcoming general availability of the XtremIO all flash storage system. It has been a year since EMC purchased the Israeli company which at the time was pre-revenue and pre-production. While some thought products based on the company’s technologies would reach market more quickly, EMC took the time necessary to ensure that the XtremIO solution would be as reliable as the rest of the company’s family of storage systems.
Software Defined Storage
The second announcement was around EMC’s new Software Defined Storage platform – ViPR which reflects what Neuralytix believes will help EMC to remain in the leadership position in storage that they have held for so many years now.
Most users and vendors consider software-defined storage (SDS) as simply the instantiation of storage services such as snapshots, replication, etc. at a higher level on the storage stack (i.e. closer to the computing layer). As such, many companies, including EMC rival, NetApp claims its first-to-market leadership in this space.
But what EMC has done with ViPR is more dramatic, and will have a larger, more long lasting impact on the way storage is deployed, managed and provisioned.
What ViPR defines (in software, naturally), is that storage capacity is universal. What is more important is ViPR’s ability to put data in context – much in the same way Big Data puts unstructured data into context. In fact, ViPR could be viewed as the “Big Data” approach to data storage.
What do we mean by this? In ViPR, EMC has divorced the data path from the control path. The data path (the route along which data travels between storage media, which could include hard disk drives, solid-state disks, virtual or real tape and even cloud storage) is the mechanism by which data gets from the medium to the respective host.
The control path on the other hand, is how data is managed, secured, provisioned – in other words, the locus of many of the traditional storage “services” that we enjoy from modern storage systems.
What also makes EMC’s approach unique is the universal nature of their approach. Storage systems, irrespective of brand, can be integrated into common pools of data. In fact, as part of its ViPR plans, EMC announced its intention not only to integrate tightly with VMware, but the Microsoft and OpenStack virtualization platforms, as well.
During a demonstration of ViPR, EMC also demonstrated the ViPR’s self-service provisioning through a self-service catalog. This is an important part of software-defined storage. Automation not only provides consistency, predictability and repeatability, it also has the benefit of scaling without needing to hire significant numbers of administrators. This feature enables authorized users to provision storage that is consistent with predefined service levels without needing to know the intricacies of the back-end infrastructure, essentially moving focus away from infrastructure management to the higher value pursuit of innovation through information.
As a result, data residing in ViPR-enabled environments will be able to persist independent of its provision, distribution, use case or application – essentially virtualizing the data itself. (A need that Neuralytix has been very vocal in asserting).
Despite Neuralytix’s excitement about ViPR, it is not yet generally available. EMC stated that some capabilities would be enabled later in 2013, with additional features planned for the following year. The company did not disclose details regarding how ViPR will be instantiated, only to state that it is software, and not a hardware appliance (as some of the nomenclature related ViPR might suggest).
Despite the wait, the importance of ViPR goes far beyond its definition and leadership as it relates to software-defined storage. By virtualizing data, and essentially being able to present it through any protocol (block-, file- object-based or HDFS), EMC has laid the groundwork for an enterprise to transform its underlying data structures to seamlessly adapt to new applications and programming frameworks such as Hadoop.
ViPR’s ability to support third party storage will also enable customers to protect their existing infrastructure, and in many cases, current processes to minimize disruption to existing operations, while still able to benefit from the data services, provisioning and management offered by ViPR.
Why is this important?
ViPR is not yet generally available, and it is still somewhat unclear how ViPR will be instantiated. But this lack of clarity is secondary to the opportunities that it opens to EMC and the whole community. ViPR is expected to integrate closely with VMware. ViPR will also integrate and provide management of non-EMC storage systems.
Software-Defined Storage as EMC is defining it is more than running storage services on a different part of the storage stack. It goes further than moving beyond traditionally storage controller based storage systems.
EMC’s ViPR differentiates itself by the fact that it is designed to offer storage services and capabilities that are not inline with the storage system. It has split the control path and the data path, and the storage services operates on the control path, leaving the data path to continue to be as efficient, high performance and available as ever.
EMC has also recognized that there is a definitive movement from traditional block- and file-based storage to object-based scale-out protocols such as HDFS. ViPR virtualizes all storage, and enables that storage to be pooled and represented in whatever protocol an application desires.
This helps enterprises to protect their current investment, while being able to
evolve and adapt to new applications and data structures (or lack thereof, in the case of Big Data).
EMC made its big 2013 announcement around Big Data in two separate announcements in March and April respectively. First, it announced Pivotal HD, the new name for its Greenplum Hadoop offering; and on April 1st, 2013, EMC announced the formation of Pivotal, a wholly owned division of EMC that would own, develop and distribute offerings previously in the Greenplum division, some assets from VMware, and Pivotal Labs, an acquisition EMC made about a year ago.
At EMC World, EMC provided its customers a view into how the new Pivotal division will operate. Its current charter is focused on helping enterprises find value from the data and information it is already protecting (hopefully using an EMC solution!) Since Pivotal includes the data harnessing tools (through the Greenplum database, Hadoop and SQL connector, now called Pivotal HD), a development platform (using Spring and Gemfire) and the talent (from the Pivotal Labs acquisition), EMC is able to fast track development of the necessary analytics workflow to help enterprises to innovate around turning information into innovation.
Neuralytix believes that although EMC’s intent and the roadmap for Pivotal is on the right track, the company must quickly invest in messaging that will better educate its customers and prospective customers on what Pivotal can do to accelerate efforts leveraging Big Data technologies to generate new business value and opportunities.
Pivotal must also emulate the successes of VMware in cultivating a large community of developers and partners who will subscribe to the organization’s approach to Big Data.
Finally, EMC discussed the element of “trust” that will be delivered primarily via its RSA division. Trust (read: security) has been an easy barrier to entry with respects to any new technology including (but certainly not limited to) cloud (both public and private), software-defined services or every kind, and even Big Data.
As society increasingly accepts a highly connected, yet increasingly less secure data world, EMC’s ownership of RSA will be able to provide a soapbox for defining the “trust” factor, allowing it to talk less about hardware and software, and more about how data and information (when securely procured, processed and delivered) can result in improved enterprise value.
Neuralytix believes that at EMC World 2013, the company set a course for the next decade. The IT industry has often been described as having three distinct eras: the dedicated systems era (mainframe and minicomputers, and to a lesser extent HPC); the distributed systems era (PC servers, LANs, etc.) and now the cloud era.
For each of these eras, EMC has delivered a tour de force: the company’s well-known brand and storage leadership in both the dedicated and distributed eras, and VMware which provided a bridge between the distributed and cloud eras. Now, the Pivotal brand appears ready to extend to the cloud era and beyond.
Many kudos have to be given to the EMC’s CMO, Jeremy Burton. This year was Burton’s fourth EMC World and during his time with the company, Burton and his team have managed to literally transform conversations concerning EMC from storage to broader topics of how data and information can transform an enterprise’s ability to generate value.
Only time will tell whether EMC has driven the conversation around “transformation” too quickly. EMC recognizes very well that many users are slow to change, particularly as it relates to storage. But, like today’s evolutions and revolutions in technology, only those vendors and users who are smart enough, or quick enough to adapt to the changing information and technology needs are the ones that come out in front, and win in this highly competitive and increasingly transparent world.
Neuralytix believes that EMC is heading in the right direction, and has the right people, processes and technologies to extend its leadership into markets outside of traditional storage systems. The company faces tough competition from more established business intelligence and data analytics players, and from numerous start-ups; but Neuralytix believes that overall the vision EMC expressed during EMC World 2013 is one that will allow it to continue being very successful through into the next decade.
Over the last several years, EMC has evolved from its traditional roots as “the storage company” to a vendor that has essentially transformed the whole server community by commoditizing it (through VMware). EMC is now in a position to offer a complete information stack from infrastructure to middleware and application development while differentiating itself from competitors like Oracle by offering choice throughout the stack.
This publication was also published by Pund-IT on May 15, 2013