Where EMC Is Investing in Storage, Cloud Innovation

Plenty of storage and cloud-related innovation is happening at EMC, despite its impending merger with Dell and what many industry observers believe.

LAS VEGAS—When the news came Oct. 11 that Dell was going to spend upwards of $67 billion to acquire EMC and its far-ranging IT empire and take it private, skeptics cropped up everywhere.

People were commenting, for example, that two established, very successful but elderly (by Silicon Valley terms) 32-year-old IT giants certainly cannot be innovative enough to be successful in the second decade of the 21st century. Their mindsets are old-school, the installed bases too expansive to transform to new-gen IT anytime soon. Plus, the integration of two such giants will take precedence over any significant new product development.

Well, some people may have thought—and still may be harboring—those thoughts, but from eWEEK's third-party viewpoint, those folks are off-base.

"There's been a lot of talk about the 'innovation wheel' slowing down, as we become part of Dell, but it's been anything but that," Sam Grocott, who serves as senior vice president of Marketing and Product Management at EMC, told eWEEK May 2 at EMC World 2016 here at the Sands Expo Center.

Grocott keeps tabs on the Emerging Technology Division at EMC, so he knows from where the innovation emanates.

"Within our division alone, we've refreshed every major product we sell, to either a major release or a v1.0. The last 100 days especially have been amazing here."

Here is a roundup of four new storage products that are either ready for market now or scheduled to be released.

Isilon Scale-Out Storage

EMC acquired Seattle-based storage provider Isilon in 2010 for $2.25 billion. Isilon specializes in large-scale, linear-oriented, clustered systems—mostly for huge workloads created by media companies and scientific labs. It has enjoyed a strong niche market in Hollywood CGI (computer-generated imagery) movies for more than a decade.

Isilon recently was refreshed with a technology called Datalink 2.0, which extends the capabilities of the storage product for the first time.

"Isilon has moved from a singular data center solution to the edge and to the cloud," Grocott said. "Everything being made in Hollywood is now digital—whether it's the in-theater experience, in 3D and now in 4K—which is going to 8K and 16K in the next couple of years. It's all in online consumption, whether it's in movies, HD and now 4K coming through cable that's creating higher-resolution files as well as higher bandwidth needs.

"Isilon is purpose-built for high bandwidth, whether it's a single stream or for millions of people accessing the same file, which you typically see in a content delivery network," he added.

Isilon can expand a data lake by consolidating data from edge locations to a core data center. It now can use its Datalink 2.0 multiprotocol capabilities to support a wide range of second- and third-platform applications—including big data analytics—to gain more value from enterprise edge data.

Isilon turned out to be a good acquisition: It is still growing as a business about 20 percent per year, and it's well on its way to a $2 billion run rate, Grocott said. "It's the largest revenue-driver within the ETD portfolio,” he said.

Elastic Cloud Storage

Borrowing the title from Amazon's 10-year-old Elastic Cloud, EMC came out with ECS 2.2, a native object-storage architecture that will connect with its newly launched Virtustream enterprise cloud service. It contains all of the key APIs needed for the EMC ecosystem: old ones for Centerra and Atmos and Amazon S3-type APIs, so users can move data through EMC on-premises storage to cloud providers such as Microsoft Azure and AWS.

For the first time, ECS 2.2 features metadata search—a huge help in the object storage world, which is now dealing with billions of objects in the emerging IoT market, Grocott noted.

"The ability to catalog and then search all of these very tiny to extremely large objects within an object architecture is a big problem, so this solves that," Grocott said. "We've also added file ingest. So if you want to use the standard NFS to move data in and out, you can."

ECS 2.2 also will become the backbone for all of Virtustream's object store. "Last year we shipped about 1.5 exabytes of ECS storage, which is a combination of on-premises and cloud storage," he said.

That's a lot of data, and it's mostly cold storage. An exabyte is equal to a thousand petabytes.

Direct-Attached SSD Storage

EMC's DSSD (direct-attached solid-state disk), launched Feb. 29, is attached directly to the processor to enable real-time data processing and real-time analytics and insight.

The DSSD D5 brings ultra-dense, high-performance, highly available and very low latency shared flash storage for up to 48 clients. D5 is connected to each node through PCIe Gen3 and uses NVMe technology, which delivers the performance of PCI-attached flash.

NVMe is a communications interface/protocol developed specially for SSDs by a consortium of vendors, including Intel, Samsung, Sandisk, Dell and Seagate. Like SCSI and Serial ATA, NVMe is designed to take advantage of the unique properties of pipeline-rich, random access, memory-based storage.

"This is a new category of flash, rackscale flash, which gives us a real-time approach to using all-flash architecture designed for applications like real-time analytics [and] SaaS grids," Grocott said. "We have a specific new application written for Cloudera, one of our key go-to-market partners in the big data/Hadoop space.

"Finally, Oracle is a traditional use case,” he continued. “Instead of Oracle RAC, they (EMC/Oracle customers) are looking at new storage architectures to be able to do their big data analytics faster. DSSD will become an optional block storage device in those systems; users are going to see tremendous latency gains of less than 100 microseconds out of a DSSD, which is unbelievably fast."

ScaleIO 2.0

EMC acquired then-2-year-old ScaleIO in 2013. The company's software-only Elastic Converged Storage product enables enterprise to pool flash resources across high numbers of servers. The software can converge solid-state disks (SSDs), hard disk drives and PCIe-based flash cards to create virtual storage-area networks (SANs).

ScaleIO is the core storage engine inside VCE's VxRack, giving the system its scale-out block-based storage file system. It also runs VCE's new VxFlex and Neutrino Nodes systems, announced May 3. Grocott described Neutrino as a "turnkey OpenStack system."

VxRack System with Neutrino Nodes is a foundation for multiple cloud-native services including OpenStack, VMware Photon Platform and Apache Hadoop. VxRack System with Neutrino Nodes also serves as one of the underlying IaaS options for the new EMC Native Hybrid Cloud platform, also announced May 3.

Native Hybrid Cloud is an engineered turnkey platform that offers developer and infrastructure services in as soon as two days. NHC enables the DevOps model to bring developers a set of services to build, deploy, scale and manage the cloud-native applications while providing visibility, control and financial insights to IT, according to the company.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 15 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...