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Will Escape Velocity Put EMC Storage In Orbit?

EMC Corporation, the Massachusetts phenomenon that will always be known for outrunning IBM in the array space, has announced a massive package of hardware and software products designed to launch the company into continued profitability in the millennium. The new announcements include what the company claims are the world's fastest and highest-capacity storage systems. Christening the initiative "Escape Velocity," the announcements also expand what EMC calls the E-Infostructure. The company claims this is a centrally managed information infrastructure that offers the scalable and flexible platform necessary to handle demanding information storage needs from the workgroup on up.

In a prepared statement, EMC CEO Mike Ruettgers jumped on the company metaphor and said: "Organizations today face a difficult challenge: accelerate enough to break free of competition and outdated business models or come crashing back to earth. More than ever, information is the rocket fuel. 'Escape velocity' can't be reached with traditional server-based means of capturing and leveraging information--it requires a launching pad based on a wide-reaching infrastructure. With these unprecedented leaps in our Symmetrix and CLARiiON platforms and in our software and connectivity portfolio, EMC provides customers with the only complete set of storage solutions that can truly enable escape velocity."

Hardware Introductions

The new EMC Symmetrix 8000 Enterprise Storage systems include a number of enhancements. One enhancement goes to the operating system. Referred to by EMC as Enginuity, the operating environment is said to provide significant functionality to the new 8000, including advanced data protection, standardized management, high-performance data movement, load balancing, etc. The operating system forms the foundation for software developers to develop APIs.

The 8000 also claims an important capacity advantage. The new product is rated up to 19.1TB of storage in a 17.3 square-foot floor space. It is designed for applications such as data-intensive Internet, data ware-housing, and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) applications.

Leveraging its recent acquisition of Data General's CLARiiON storage operation, EMC recently launched the CLARiiON FC4500 storage system. The new system is the first CLARiiON offering to support storage consolidation for multiple, heterogeneous hosts (shared access for Sun Solaris, Windows NT, HP-UX, and IBM AIX), to participate in switched Fibre Channel networks, and to deliver new software functionality.

Software Development

EMC, in recent years, has identified itself as a software company, although its claim to fame is the Symmetrix family of hardware storage products. The company has complemented its hardware introductions with a software suite that is said to enable the E-Infostructure.

The new and enhanced software announced today includes:

EMC ControlCenter software. ControlCenter is EMC's centralized management framework for monitoring and controlling information infrastructures. ControlCenter enables customers to monitor, configure, control, and finetune their enterprise information from a single user console, either locally or over the Internet. Used in conjunction with EMC Navisphere Manager software, ControlCenter also provides a centralized point of management for EMC CLARiiON systems.

SRDF software. Symmetrix Remote Data Facility (SRDF), remote data replication software, enables companies to maintain a duplicate, accessible copy of all or some of their information at a secondary system located in the next building or across long distances. In addition to IP support announced this February, new SRDF capabilities include full Fibre Channel support for enhanced data replication in EMC environments, and open systems consistency groups for databases residing on multiple Symmetrix systems.

TimeFinder software. TimeFinder enables businesses to create copies of production data non-disruptively to be used for backups, data warehouse loading, decision support applications, application development, and other activities that require copies of data. The newest iteration of TimeFinder now can make multiple copies to provide rapid recovery from software failures, operator errors, or hacker attack.

CopyCross for MVS software. EMC claims that technical limitations of tape systems have prevented fast, reliable, cost-effective business continuity and disaster recovery. Whether this is true or not, the company has developed a software package that is able to transparently, securely, and automatically migrate MVS tape-based data to the Symmetrix system where it is treated as native disk-based data. When the host issues tape I/Os, CopyCross software reroutes the data and stores it the Symmetrix system. Applications and tape management systems continue to interact with the data as if they were tape-based files.

InfoMover software. Until the new announcement, InfoMover has enabled organizations to perform high-speed bulk file transfers between any combination of supported Unix, Windows NT, and mainframe systems via an EMC Enterprise Storage Network rather than the corporate end-user network. InfoMover can now provide shared heterogeneous access to a single copy of mainframe data by multiple Unix systems.

EMC Access Logix software. Similar to EMC's Volume Logix software for Symmetrix, the new Access Logix provides storage administrators with a flexible, intuitive, easy-to-implement method for CLARiiON data protection and shared storage access in an EMC Enterprise Storage Network. Access Logix enables storage administrators to configure and deploy storage capacity centrally on an as-needed basis, accelerating system reconfigurations and rollouts.

Navisphere Manager software. Navisphere Manager provides centralized management, configuration, notification, and control of all EMC CLARiiON storage systems on a network. Navisphere Manager has been enhanced to manage the new ESN features of the CLARiiON 4500. In addition, Navisphere Manager now integrates with EMC ControlCenter to provide a single management station for all EMC storage products.

EMC Application Transparent Failover software. Similar to EMC's PowerPath software, EMC Application Transparent Failover (ATF) software continuously protects CLARiiON data and applications from I/O path failures, ensuring reliability and high-availability business operations. ATF now supports high-availability configurations and path failover through EMC Connectrix Enterprise Storage Network switches.

EMC As Target

The announcements from EMC hold one major commonality: they all specifically support the EMC Enterprise Storage Network, a proprietary approach that would lock customers tightly into the EMC solutions vision. This is not necessarily a bad thing; users will commit to a solution if it accomplishes what they need: an environment that supports their applications reliably and a high level of control over storage in their enterprise. EMC has historically been able to accomplish this well and the addition of CLARiiON products expands the EMC reach beyond the narrow boundaries of the high-end enterprise.

Yet the success of EMC makes it something of a target for aggressive competition from big name competitors. Those competitors are beating the interoperability drum heavily. Coming out swinging is IBM, who advises that it has captured more than one-third of EMC's top accounts by aggressively selling IBM's Shark Enterprise Storage Server to EMC Symmetrix customers.

In a prepared statement, IBM reports that "[ldots] surveys of the new Shark converts have revealed what may be a surprising statistic: a full 54 percent of the former Symmetrix customers cited interoperability--i.e. the ability to work with multiple computing and storage platforms--as the main motivation behind the switch to Shark."

The statement continues: "Though performance and price were also cited as prime differentiators, the value placed on open storage is clear. CIOs attempting to widen access to data for more effective decision making in all parts of an e-business are mandating that new storage investments seamlessly interact with existing data sources in the enterprise."

Interoperability is also on the mind of Sun Microsystems. CTR spoke with Sun's Denise Shiffman, who said: "They look a lot like DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation) did [ldots] playing in the high end but very thin in smaller markets." When asked about the announcements, Shiffman replied that current customer requirements call for " [ldots] flexibility and scalability. EMC offers big, closed boxes with a heavy price tag. They manage it and control it." Shiffman believes that EMC's one-size-fits-all approach is flawed.

Attacks On Tape

The EMC announcements also touched on a familiar theme repeated by EMC frequently. This is the inability of tape to perform well for backup and disaster recovery applications. The "tape is dead" theme persists in many of EMC's statements and is a favorite theme of Reuttgers. The persistence of the theme is all the more puzzling when analysts suggest that EMC's own tape automation business, mandated by customers, is a very healthy business by itself.

The statistics do not bear out the assertion that tape is on the ropes. Bob Amatruda at International Data Corporation charted tape automation in 1999 at $2.1 billion dollars with a combined annual growth rate of about 25%. His expectations point to a $5.2 billion dollar industry by the year 2003.

Shiffman casts a little further light. She points out that data is hot, medium, or cold. Hot data remains on disk, medium-importance data is either on disk or tape, depending on the network configuration and the applications, and archived data can find no more cost-effective home than tape.

Incremental Advances

All in all, the EMC announcements represent a sensible next step in the performance/capacity roadmap, but it represents more of an incremental increase than a quantum leap. Yet this makes sense: many customers look cautiously at quantum leaps, wondering what the tradeoffs would be. The EMC hardware improvements can, in part, be traced to higher-capacity disk drives, but with these new drives, integrators should investigate how much of the new capacity is new capacity and how much is taken up with new overhead or metadata. In any event, the buyers of these new systems and software products will base themselves overwhelmingly on performance, footprint, and reliability, but for better or for worse, there is always a certain amount of brand bias out there. It will need to be addressed as digital storage demands continue to achieve escape velocity and rocket into petabytes.

Beware The Shark

In the face of the EMC announcement, IBM maintains what it calls "commitment to open standards." According to IBM's Bob Samson: "Customers want alternatives and choices. Shark is a high performance storage solution that addresses customer's demands for managing the explosive growth of data due to e-business."

IBM Enterprise Storage Server works with a host of diverse platforms and operating systems, including Windows NT, Unix, and Netware, as well as IBM's S/390 and AS/400 servers. Shark also communicates with a variety of interfaces, including Fibre Channel, Ultra SCSI, and ESCON. The result: it supports far more platforms than any other disk system. The newest models of the "Shark" Server offers the IBM 64-bit RISC processor, 16GB of cache, and additional PCI buses, resulting in up to a 100% increase in throughput.

With the IBM building-block architecture, existing Shark customers can upgrade to the new processor to gain performance advantages. The enhanced Shark software will support advanced copy services and native Fibre Channel connectivity, as They can be added in a non-disruptive mode to the new Shark models.

IBM has, in recent months, announced enhanced, industry standard, Fibre Channel-based routers, gateways, switches, and managed hubs that enhance SAN connectivity in an enterprise. In addition, IBM Magstar tape products can now connect in a SAN using the IBM SAN Data Gateway, allowing them to support the sharing of tape drives within a SAN.

Tivoli has announced LAN-free SAN management software, the only software that allows information to be shared across different application programs, servers, and storage devices. With this software, users will be able to retrieve files faster than on a Local Area Network (LAN) In addition, it will free network bandwidth on the LAN.

IBM also recently introduced a SAN solution using a cluster of two Netfinity servers with Fibre Channel connections and Legato mirroring extension software. The cluster can be separated by as much as ten kilometers (6.2 miles) IBM's SAN Fibre Channel Managed Hub creates high-speed interconnections for such applications as high-availability clustering, storage consolidation, and LAN-free backup.
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Author:Ferelli, Mark
Publication:Computer Technology Review
Date:May 1, 2000
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