… oh my!

ORIGINALLY POSTED 24th April 2008

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Over at Burke HQ, I see that he’s a little put out by a few questioning articles after EMCs 1Q broadcasts.

In his latest post titled “Lions and Tigers and Bears” I can only but say “oh my!”

Its unlike BarryB to tee himself up for such an obvious retort and to use his words not mine, let me explain.

While discussing “Thin Provisioning”, or as EMC are calling it “Virtual Provisioning” – now a quick aside – don’t be fooled, this naming is a deliberate attempt to try and use the ‘virtual’ buzz word. Even although SVC is a virtualization appliance, IBM decided not to use the word in its name, instead calling it the SAN Volume Controller ™ or SVC for short. We have also decided not to use the term “Thin Provisioning” for our own in-house feature, instead it will be known as Space Efficient Volumes/Vdisks (SEV) which, due to the design of SVC’s layered stack, gives us Space Efficient Flash Copy (SEFC) for virtually free, simply create the target Vdisk as an SEV and there you go. Anyway I digress as always! BarryB talks about Thin Provisioning and why it won’t be of any use to Mainframe (zSeries) attached hosts – therefore by his implications, only open systems are likely to use it…

“And just as with RAID 5, Virtual Provisioning won’t be deployed for everything in the data center – particularly in the markets served by Symmetrix. Databases don’t really benefit all that much from thin provisioning, as they like to consume all the storage allocated to them and manage its utilization themselves. Similarly, the mainframe storage market won’t be using thin provisioning to improve utilization – in fact, mainframes have historically operated at storage utilization levels literally unheard of in the open systems market. And where ever possible, snapshots are already “thin”, so there’s not a lot of opportunity there either.”

On many occasions I have questioned why a big monolothic box needs to support every flavour of disk drive, instead it would be better to have a big box that caters for big hosts or applications, a middle sized box that caters for big or medium hosts that need reasonable performance, and then a cheapy box that caters for cheap SATA hard drives. As for flash, the only real enterprise ready devices are those from STEC, who may be in trouble if Seagate get their way, but are off limits to the rest of use due to an exclusivity deal – nothing we can do there, but there are many fingers in many pies and all I can say is things will get interesting very soon now. Anyway the point here is why would you want one big expensive box that was a ‘jack of all trades and a master of none’ (certainly not a master of cache unfriendly workloads)…

BarryB finishes by asking…

“In fact, instead of worrying about whether or not thin provisioning is going to reduce capacity demand for Symmetrix, methinks we should be asking “what about those products that don’t even offer thin provisioning, or huge SATA drives, or super-fast Flash drives, or more than 1024 disk drives in a single array?” Why should they be getting a pass on these blatant gaps in their products just because they’re spending money on Israeli companies?

You know who I’m talking about.

So lets think about this, if for example you had an appliance that could front all storage types, provide you with online data migration between said storage types, let you manage copy services across them all, soon provide Space Efficient characteristics, natively support any SATA or flash device you decided you wanted, provide many thousands of disks behind a single management interface and integrate with all the ‘Israeli’ products you could imagine… why would you care that just one of your products that has its largest footprint as a Mainframe box didn’t have all of those features, when according to Mr Burke, everything the Mainframe does well it does itself, and by his own admission won’t need or use features like Thin Provisioning.

My question would be, where is EMC’s appliance that can do the same, is it Invista? Surely if they had such an appliance that worked, they would be bashing IBM with it, as they try to do with their big ‘jack of all’ monolith. Best of all they wouldn’t have to force customers to buy the big monolithic DMX just to get these functions or features, remember, today’s buzz is engery efficiency, isn’t that Symmetrix a lot of data center footprint and power to run a dozen STEC drives flat out or even to keep a few hundred SATA drives spinning… Do yourself a favour, don’t buy the FUD.


Update 24th April

As a bit of an aside, I’m told we have shipped more than 12,000 SVC nodes, at 4,000 customers – taking EMC’s Invista claims of 200 installs, thats 20x the number of installs, and most of the SVC installs are in production use – anybody out there actually using Invista in production?

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