Two years ago, at the EMC Forum in Long Beach, Calif., the worlds of storage networking and VMware seemed a galaxy apart. The VMware guys huddled in distinct groups, had their own session track that had little to do with data storage, and spoke in a language that few in the larger storage camp could understand.
At this year's event (last week in Long Beach), all that changed. Not only were the VMware tracks more aligned via EMC's (NYSE: EMC) journey to the private cloud messaging, but the storage guys were now talking the same lingo. It seems that EMC has embraced the language of virtualization across its culture vSphere, vCenter, VCB, (VMware Consolidated Backup) and all the rest of the virtual-speak were part and parcel of EMC's own technical presentations about backup, Symmetrix and storage management.
EMC Forum also featured news of the imminent release of Unisphere for unified array management, the vStorage APIs for Array Integration (VAAI) as detailed in a recent Enterprise Storage Forum article, and a briefing on vBlock, the first tangible product from the EMC, Cisco and VMware partnership.
"The new vSphere APIs provide the best virtual server integration," said Pat Gelsinger, the company's president and COO.
Method to the Madness
During the EMC World event in May, Gelsinger seemed like a square peg in a round hole. Clearly not a storage networking guy, his presentation appeared to be a little offbeat. At EMC Forum, however, he was the main event and his mission came more sharply into focus.
While continuing the private cloud theme, he went into the specifics of where EMC is heading, such as streamlining the product portfolio from end-to-end.
"EMC had a very complex product line when I showed up," said Gelsinger. "We are in the midst of simplifying it."
He cited several examples. One goal is to bring block, file and object-based storage together in the long term. He also mentioned that instead of 16 ways to accomplish replication, EMC would boil it down to one or two. Rumors of the unification of EMC arrays, then, could prove well founded.
Probably the most tangible sign of EMC's intentions is the release of the Unisphere unified management console. It works across CLARiiON and Celerra systems and will be part of new arrays and systems going forward. What this does is provide one pane of glass to manage storage - no more jumping from console to console depending on the product line.
Interestingly, the dovetailing with VMware is so tight that users can use either Unisphere or vSphere for management purposes (i.e. virtualization and server guys can stay within vSphere and yet find out anything they need to know about storage). Similarly, storage administrators can use Unisphere as a window into the wider world of servers and virtual machines (VM).
Gelsinger was bullish about the acquisition of Greenplum, which he described as a provider of disruptive data warehousing tech and as the best-in-class large scale environment for large amounts of data. EMC has big plans for Greenplum's massively parallel architecture, which takes advantage of scale-out virtual x86 servers.
It is easy to see how this complements the vision of the private cloud. The plan is to base a new data computing product division around Greenplum within EMC's Information Infrastructure business.
"Greenplum is available currently as software, but appliance versions will be coming out," said Gelsinger.
There are many pieces involved in the EMC cloud jigsaw. Without giving much away, Gelsinger hinted that EMC Atmos would be the product line to deliver object-based storage for the cloud as part of an ongoing IT-as-a-Service vision incorporating SLA-driven management.
"New products dealing with IT-as-a-service are scheduled for the second part of this year," said Gelsinger. "We are also revitalizing our relationship with Dell."
That last tidbit no doubt is a partnership to provide cheap server building blocks for the cloud.
The extent of integration between EMC and VMware became crystal clear during the first technical session of the day - delivered by Frank Divona, business manager for EMCs Unified Storage, Cloud Computing and Archive platforms. He discussed VAAI and what it means for Unisphere: it opens the door to a common suite of data services for deduplication, compression, virtual provisioning, compliance, tiering and replication regardless of the drive type or type of storage (file, block or object).