EMC brought their “Record Breaking Tour” through St. Louis this week. Since I’ve had little exposure to EMC storage, I thought it would be worth going to familiarize myself with their product portfolio.
They did have some of their new marketing on display. There was a Mini Cooper in the lobby, and each segment of the day started off with an overly loud and, IHMO, fairly lame video. I’m not sure how execs-riding-dirtbikes-in-traffic or an 80s-style montage is going to get me to want to buy enterprise storage, but someone obviously did. For me, it was a little too YouTube-ish.
Given EMC’s reputation (deserved or otherwise) for being difficult to deal with, I expected to be hit up by the sales guys pretty often. I was mildly surprised that it didn’t happen. I noticed most of them would glance at my name tag, see that I work for a small company, and then perhaps make a mental note to totally ignore me. In a way, it was kind of a relief, but it was a noticeably different posture, than, say, the relaxed chit-chat I got from IBMers at a backup talk last fall (IBM also held it at Cabelas and had Chevys cater – just sayin’).
Seeing as EMC had launched a lot of new products, and introduced a new storage line geared at SMBs and IT generalists, I expected an overview of the new, expanded product line. However, the show was mostly geared towards telling current EMC customers what the new model numbers would be for their next round of upgrades. And most of the audience seemed to be technical rather than managerial or business.
The first product line was the VNX/VNXe. The EMC guys bragged that VNX was so easy that they had a 5th grader provision storage at the launch event. I’m not sure it dawned on anyone in the room that they were essentially saying, “you won’t need those expensive storage admins anymore!” Something you’d love to tell the business, not sure I’d tell that to the technical folks, though. In any case, most of the time was spent talking about the higher end (or as they referred to it, “Enterprise Plus”) products like the VMAX.
At this point, the words “Big” and “Data” were thrown around. A lot. I thought this was going to launch into a discussion of Greenplum, but I guess that would have been for a completely different audience. So they talked about some neat things like FAST VP, their 3-level automatic tiering (flash, SATA, and nearline SATA), integration with VMware’s vCenter, zero downtime array migrations, and the like. A lot of these were pretty impressive but probably well beyond my company’s needs for the time being. Ditto for the performance talk, sure they can do a bazillion IOPS and sub-millisecond response times, but the particular applications I support don’t require anything near that.
Having only really had exposure to NetApp filers, I was somewhat surprised to hear them bragging that they now had aggregate pools. Also, I was mildly intrigued that they have separate SPs for file and block I/O.
One of the more interesting talks was about Data Domain with some mention of Avamar. The big message: Tape is evil! Which I’m sure it is, if you make a living selling spinning rust. I agree that disk has a lot of benefits, but the density, portability, and value of tape means that we are going to be complaining about it for years to come. Their dedupe and archiving solutions seemed pretty robust, although they didn’t go into much detail about Avamar’s capabilities. NetWorker fared even worse, with only a brief mention. I got a big, toothy grin out of the guy next to me when I muttered that I had used it back when Sun resold it as Solstice Backup.
The last talk was a presentation from RSA, EMC’s crypto/security subsidiary. Kinda interesting because I don’t deal with any of that side anymore. I learned a bit about software tokens (I had wondered why no one carried those SecurID tokens anymore) and behavioral authentication.
So there you have it, my impression of EMC’s Record Breaking Tour. I hope I don’t sound too harsh, as I am not their traditional target audience, so in many ways, it wasn’t for me. But I had hoped to hear more about their VNX and VNXe lines that do seem to be targeted at SMBs.
Disclaimer: I correctly guessed how many boxes of pasta were in the Mini and won a prize.