Why wouldn’t the following work? (Future Storage System: Part 1)

October 7, 2008

So, I’ve been toying around with this in my mind for some time.  Essentially, I’ve tried to understand the basic “Storage Processor” limitation of current storage systems and propose an admittedly simplistic design to get around some of the difficulties.  The biggest hurdle, in my mind, is to have cache coherency, low latency memory access to other nodes in a “cluster,” and have a communications “bus” between nodes that is extensible (or at least will grow bandwidth with more devices on the signal chain).  Staring at that problem, then, look at the image below.

A case for Hypertransport connected nodes...

A case for Hypertransport connected nodes...

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I *heart* SMB

April 24, 2008

I Love SMB
There’s somewhat of a misconception that EMC dislikes the SMB market. While it’s true that we’ve largely ignored it, our partners in the channel (Dell, CDW, to name a few) have successfully brought our Clariion lines to the mid-level companies out there and have solved their storage needs through aggressive cost-cutting, etc. All that was well and good, but, still, there was a general sense that we were ignoring the small guys out there who had explosive growth potential for storage and revenue and who wouldn’t be able to buy in to commercial grade arrays. Enter the Clariion AX4-5 line.

In my current role, I work almost exclusively with customers who are either new to EMC or who have admired from afar our capabilities for the commercial market. They’ve perhaps been exposed to EMC through co-branding and software bundling in external hard drive technologies, smaller ASN partners that are localized by geography, or, through a channel source like CDW. Truthfully, the greatest “capture” of these customers has been through the channel and partners who have spent the time on developing relationships with their customers versus the standard “Hey, buy my product…” One of the greatest challenges then, is for EMC to step in to the ring and actually become more “friendly” or approachable with our product and personnel.

I have been critical of the Iomega acquisition in the past based on what I felt were misappropriated metrics (namely, “buying” our way into the SMB channel using stale products versus innovative new products). The Iomega name, which was once an entity noted for innovation, has diluted to nothing notable in the channel. Companies like Enhance Technology, Buffalo, etc. which continue to innovate in the SMB space have experienced great growth because they’ve continued to innovate and make their technology approachable to the masses. That being said, here’s what I see EMC doing in the SMB space.

Intel or Iomega?
It’s no secret that EMC has a special place in their heart for Intel. Our arrays (with the exception of the Symmetrix) are built around their processors, we are firmly esconced in the Win-Tel alliance with Microsoft and, well, you know the rest. We started our SMB push with rebranding Intel 4200-E units and coupled them with EMC’s Lifeline (or is it Fortress?) software. While the 4200-E is a great box, I personally viewed the “Baxter Creek” 4000-E with a little more favour since it allowed for NFS, CIFS within the same box. The 4200-E has media functions, disk protection, etc. but it is truly the software that makes the box anything special. As I’m no expert regarding the software, I’ll defer to that product team for guidance. In any case, with the Iomega acquisition, Intel will need to be relegated to a smaller portion of the EMC market to allow for Iomega to gain some traction with SMB.

Iomega brings a much needed “middle ground” that the Intel boxes cannot cover. You’re looking at budgetary allocations between $1,000.00 to the top end of around $15,000.00 based on features and pricing. Now, I don’t know exactly what they’ll be changing or re-aligning (and one has to hope they’re going to stop this ridiculous whitebox rebranding stuff they’re doing now….) but chances are we’ll see DAS and NAS offerings that will allow for SMBs to start consolidating their storage. At risk is virtualization support and integration, but honestly, most of the offerings in that market have a buy-in around $6,000.00+ (based on the product, no less), so, it could be considered part of a larger spend for that company. In any case, I’d expect EMC branded software (Lifeline?) to appear in the boxes with some level of larger integration with our Core offerings. *shrug*

Iomega or EMC Core?

In the notes above, I’ve laid out how Iomega and Intel will be at odds with each other within the same market space (very briefly). In this section, I’d like to examine potential intersection points with Iomega and EMC Core products (Clariion, Celerra).

The Clariion AX4-5 units have been positioned as near-line SMB/Commercial storage arrays. By near-line, I’m simply referring to their ability to straddle both SMB and Commercial, not necessarily their data storage/retrieval capabilities (though, to be honest, the AX4-5 is a GREAT box to have). With our partners, you can get ready-made AX4-5 units starting around $9,000.00 (minimum config, to be honest) and scale into full featured SAS/SATA powered SAN storage for (obviously) more than that. A lot of the configs that I’ve worked on have hit the sweet spot for AX4-5 entry (with typical app integration with VMWare and SQL, for example) hitting around $35,000.00 all in. That’s not a bad place to start, especially since you get enterprise grade SAS and SATA drives that we’ve tested the living stuffing out of. 😉 Same applies for the EMC Celerra NS-2x line. I’ve worked with configs that will slap high IOP fibre drives and long term storage SATA drives within the same array for around 15% more than the AX4-5s. Again, this is optimized by the environments that I’m scoping out and, in most cases, this represents the best fit for performance and capacity. How is Iomega going to fair in that world? I’m not sure.

Nothing that Iomega has put forth so far really strikes anyone with any sort of wow-factor or “I must have it NOW.” For example, the high end 450R is simple a 4 drive server that has two GigE ports on the backend. For small shops, this may be worth it, but, again, the Intel “Baxter Creek” 4000-E does the same thing for about $4,000.00 less, fully configured. Now, you can’t really compare it against an AX4-5, to be sure, but, even a single SP AX4-5 is going to start you out around $4,000.00 above the 450R with better management. Put this into a financing or leasing model and….well, you’ll make out like a bandit. Truth be told, I’m assured that new products with new innovation will be coming down the road so, I’ll reserve my final judgment for that period of time, however, the clock is ticking.

Time to innovate…

EMC has the resources and ability to create new and exciting product at a price any SMB can afford. What they cannot afford to do is miss this opportunity. They’re counting on Iomega’s reputation and channel presence more than anything to drive their business home to the millions of SMB customers out there. The problem is, reputation and presence only go so far. There has to be better products brought to the table or else, competition will undercut and drive us out. We can’t rest on our laurels as a storage entity (truth be told, EMC isn’t well known in the SMB space at all…) because SMB doesn’t care. What matters the most is that they feel protected in their growth, from a storage AND business perspective. A misplaced investment on yesterday’s technology can destroy the confidence and ability to grow of ANY business, but is particularly pertinent in SMB.

SMB drives innovation; it breathes it out with every swell of its ranks. It is the cornerstone of tomorrow’s Commercial accounts and if we screw it up with SMB now, we’re going to have a hard time taking that ill taste from their mouths at the commercial level.



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Updates (sort of)

April 13, 2008

I’m trying to keep tabs on the influx of various searches and technologies that are out there in the storage world. To that end, I’m going to do a couple of things:

a.) In the not-so-distant-future, you’re going to see me doing a lot of video presentations on this blog. I’ve got a long commute to work (> 45 minutes on most days) and I’ve got a perfect “mount” for a video camera on my dashboard. I think I’ll call the series “Storage Drive-bys” (get it?) and I’ll try to keep it to subjects that you search on (i.e. Symmetrix, EMC core, Clariion, Centera, Celerra, EDL etc. etc.) This could be a LOT of fun, so, we’ll see what happens. In fairness to you, I’ll post the disclaimer at the beginning of each video but I’ll be honest about what I think regarding each relative technology. Deal?

b.) I’m also going to keep up with a weekly “respond to your search” posting that will attempt to answer the searches (based on the stats logging I see through WordPress) that I deem most “interesting.” Stuff like “weird science Dave Graham” and “scribd” will probably NOT make the cut. 😉

With this in mind, I’m off to study for my certification exams…



Iomega (it happened)

April 9, 2008

Given all my concerns about EMC purchasing Iomega and thusly diluting its core strengths into meaningless SMB junk, guess what?  No one listened. *grin* I, of course, must now welcome my 300 bretheren from Iomega (San Diego, CA…just 60 or so miles south of my hometown, San Juan Capistrano) into the EMC fold.

One bright side to the whole thing: Iomega, despite its faults, never produced the AX150 line (or really, a product of that dimished caliber).  So, SMB buyers rejoice!  You’re getting Iomega in your local shops.



PS>  If this seems bitter, remember, I used to work for a contracted marketing company under Iomega. 😉

PPS> I’m really tired, really cranky, and, I have a new daughter (Emma) that was just born last week. This keeps me both humble and extremely proud and really, I’m not responsible for rambling too much in these posts.

PPPS> seriously, this could continue for several more “PS’s” but, I’ll cut it off here by saying that again, you must refer to that glorious disclaimer of mine in the upper right hand corner of the right column on this blog.  These are my opinions (like anyone really cares) and…well, that’s that.

PPPPS> Barry Burke…I’m HAPPY to be a naysayer… 😉

On Iomega (and other musings)

March 20, 2008

So, for due diligence purposes, I’m going to remind you to read that little disclaimer stuck in the upper right hand corner of this blog. Since that little bit is over with, let’s get on with the rest of this blog.

DailyTech – EMC Walks Back to Iomega With Revised Offer for Acquisition

If you read the above link (and about 15,000 other links that you can find over @ Google News on the same subject), you’ll see that EMC is starting the “takeover dance” with a little company called Iomega. Iomega, if you remember, was that fiesty little company that tried to get rid of the floppy by introducing the Zip drive, etc. Then came the Jaz drive, the Rev drive, and suddenly, Iomega was basically buried by the pervasive optical drive market. People didn’t care about “hard drive like speeds” on the Jaz and Rev. They were awkward, required specialized hardware (vs. CDs/DVDs which were pretty much record/play anywhere) and they were priced beyond parity with CD/DVD burners.

Flashing forward, they decided to dilute their strengths by playing with NAS and other DAS storage technologies, again at disadvantageous pricing levels and weaker performance than, say, whitebox vendors like Enhance Technology, D-Link, Netgear, Linksys, etc. All in all, they quickly relegated themselves to market followers from a leadership position.

So, why is EMC going after Iomega? Surely they’ve studied brand recognition and penetration and have realized that beyond pitiful market performance (sales and revenue) that there is a certain air of distinction when “Iomega” is heard. For similar comparison, I guess, you could look at the purchase of Linksys by Cisco and how that has managed to maintain profitibility without dilution of the core branding. Conversely, you could look at AMD’s purchase of ATI Technologies and the struggle they’ve had to maintain profitability and market share since then. However, I’m going to come right out and say it: I don’t think that this move is at all a good idea. Here are a couple of points where I think this all falls apart.

a.) EMC prides itself on having a solid portfolio of performance oriented hardware. Some have come through acquisition (Clariion) and some are “homegrown” (Symmetrix). To that end, Iomega’s current position of whiteboxing other people’s hardware seems to be almost a tertiary acquisition of IP and too far down the line to really add value to the overall EMC product portfolio. Almost contradictory to the overall mission of EMC to manage a customer’s information with both quality and performance. A continuation of a whitebox agreement with Intel (a name almost synonymous with “performance” and “hardware”) would do much better.

b.) EMC is trying to move into the SMB space using their reputation for enterprise excellence. Why would you purchase an inferior product when you’re trying to strengthen your overall image within the SMB space? EMC Fortress was a good move with EMC solidifying a tailor-made product that the SMB world could affordably attain. Why EMC would want to re-engineer and re-invent the wheel with Iomega is beyond me. It’ll do more harm than good. They’ll need to redo their software (which is terrible), redo their hardware (which is terrible), and basically restructure the company into an EMC Jr. (time, expense, and…well, profitability dips doing that.) Again, for comparison purposes, Cisco, when it took over Linksys, gained a company with a solid reputation, a solid and profitable portfolio of products, and had little work to do to re-brand and promote.

c.) EMC has better purchasing options available in the SMB focused storage field. Looking at Iomega as a strictly “dilution” oriented brand purchase, what else is out there for purchase? I can think of a few different companies and alliances:
i.) Intel. Not a purchase but an alliance. Take Fortress one step further. Get into the hardware with them. Intel makes the core logic cpus and ASICs that we use (along with many others) and knows how to maintain profitability in a variety of key verticals.
ii.) Buffalo Technology. Buffalo has a VERY good reputation amongst SMB users that I’ve dealt with and again, has a VERY diversified portfolio of storage and IP based products. It’s a PERFECT fit within the EMC market. It also has international reach.
iii.) Enhance Technology. Enhance is an awkward bird when it operates by itself. However, if it had the correct strategy and corporate guidance, it would have tremendous reach. Not only are its product EXCEPTIONALLY well made, they have performance and OEM designs taken care of already. With EMC’s corporate disk alliances (Fujitsu, Hitachi, Seagate), it would be incredibly easy for EMC to incorporate and re-brand their products into EMC SMB.

Anyhow, these are my thoughts for now. Again, reference the disclaimer above as these are MY opinions, not EMCs.



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