Top Ten Revelations from EMC World

Monday May 24th 2010 by Drew Robb

We offer 10 observations from two days spent roaming through EMC's annual product showcase.

EMC World, the annual extravaganza of data storage giant EMC (NYSE: EMC), is now behind us for another year. So what lasting impressions were we left with? Here are our top 10 observations from two days of product demos, keynotes and hallway conversations:

1. All Cloud, All the Time

The first one is no surprise to anyone who has followed the storage networking market leader: EMC is going all out for the cloud. Everything at the show was about "your journey to the private cloud." Even panels had this slant, such as security in the cloud. Attendees were given light blue t-shirts with puffy white clouds. Everything was given a cloud spin.

"Despite all the Kool-Aid, private clouds are in your future," said Greg Schulz, an analyst with StorageIO Group. "Don't be scared of it, but look before you leap."

2. On the FAST Track

Fully Automated Storage Tiering (FAST) version 2 is coming this July, and it finally gets sub-LUN data movement capabilities.

3. Solid State Slowdown

The solid state drive (SSD) mania has taken a back seat. For two years, SSDs were front and center at all EMC events. This year, EMC CEO Joe Tucci barely mentioned it, and no speaker gave it much time. The only really positive thing about flash came up at the 11th hour, when Brian Ader, a senior product manager for EMC's midrange storage systems, said that sales of FAST tend to be driving flash sales.

"Customers seem to be buying flash with FAST," he said. "Flash offers them the opportunity to implement a high-performance Tier 0."

4. Primary Storage Compression

The data compression functions added into Celerra for file-based data a couple of years ago are now available for block-level data in Clariion. This gives about 50 percent reclamation of space.

"Clariion and its compression announcement are not getting enough love," said Schulz. "Being able to reduce a storage array from 100 TB to 50 TB is huge for storage administrators."

5. VPlex is Serious Business

EMC means business with its new VPlex caching and data mobility appliance, which is central to EMC's cloud strategy. It allows companies to move large amounts of data between remote sites a whole lot faster than could be done in the past. The company already has 60 companies implementing VPlex in one form or another.

"EMC has created a new category withVPlex," said Brian Gallagher, division president for EMC's Symmetrix and Virtualization Product Group. "It enables companies to do things they couldn’t do in the past."

6. Deduplication Drives EMC's Growth

While SSD's star may be fading, deduplication is catching fire. It was specifically mentioned in the most recent EMC earnings report, and Tucci expects Data Domain/Avamar to gross over $1 billion this year.

"Dedupe is not a question of if, but when, where and how," said Schulz.

7. EMC is a Cash Machine

EMC is raking in the cash. Based on the most recent quarterly report and statements made at the show, it continues to expand its earnings potential and seems set to continue that trend for the foreseeable future. Its marriage with VMware (NYSE: VMW) turned out to be a smart move now that the cloud and virtual data centers are mushrooming.

"Things are looking better in the market," said Tucci. "It is a much better financial environment than a year ago."

8. More Acquisitions to Come

And with $10 billion in cash and investments on hand, you can certainly expect more acquisitions from EMC. Tucci says more acquisitions are likely, but don't expect a blockbuster move. He said he prefers to buy up smaller technology companies — what he calls the "string of pearls" approach — as they are much easier to digest rapidly.

9. RSA Security's Awkward Moment

While VMware is the favorite son, RSA Security still seems to be the stepchild within the corporate portfolio. No matter how the company tries to include RSA in its annual showcase, it just doesn't seem to belong. That said, RSA is going to be coming out with several tools oriented toward the cloud. One, for example, will make it possible for enterprises to audit their cloud providers to verify that VMs and applications are being kept secure and the data isn't being shared with anyone else.

10. Unified Storage Management

One screen to rule them all — at least in the midrange. EMC has come out with Unisphere to eliminate the need for hopping from console to console to manage the different grades of EMC storage. In addition, EMC has ramped up integration with VMware vCenter so you can use it to view all storage, servers and virtual machines. Clariion and Celerra systems now support VMware vStorage APIs for Array Integration. This can be used to offload VMware storage functions from the server to the storage system.

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