EMC World Blockbuster: Storage Giant Set To Attack Nimble, Pure With New Unity All-Flash Array

EMC is set to kick off its final EMC World conference as an independent company by taking the storage world by storm with a new unified all-flash storage array priced to take share from high flyers Nimble Storage and Pure Storage, sources said.

The new 2U unified storage solution, which combines file, block and object storage capabilities under the new Unity brand, will be priced starting at $20,000, targeting it squarely in the midmarket where Nimble and Pure have robust offerings, sources told CRN.

"There is going to be a lot of people at Pure that are going to sit up and take notice," a source close to EMC told CRN. "This is huge for the channel."

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The new EMC Unity solution product comes on the heels of EMC's introduction of its new VxRail hyper-converged infrastructure appliance, which takes aim at hyper-converged infrastructure competitors like Nutanix and SimpliVity.

"With VxRail and Unity, EMC has hyper-converged and all-flash array [solutions] that will drive volume sales," the source said. "The message is that EMC wants it all: the very high end, high end, midmarket and low end. The folks that doubted that EMC could transform the product line are going to be eating some humble pie."

An EMC spokesperson declined to discuss whether EMC will introduce a new all-flash storage array at EMC World, set for next week in Las Vegas.

But David Goulden, CEO of EMC Information Infrastructure, last week hinted at EMC Unity during the vendor's first fiscal quarter 2016 financial analyst conference call.

Goulden said during the call that 2016 would be a tipping point at which all-flash systems begin to dominate the market.

"Of new systems shipped [this year], more than half will be all-flash," Goulden said. He also said the market has reached a point where all-flash systems can be had for the same money, and perhaps even less, than traditional systems.

"It becomes a no-brainer in the primary storage marketplace. … That will play out in 2016," he said. "It's been a tidal wave coming, and now it's going to break on the shore."

Goulden also said EMC will introduce a new line of mid-tier all-flash storage systems at the upcoming EMC World conference.

EMC Unity is going to replace EMC's VNX and VNXe lines, said Jamie Shepard, senior vice president for health care and strategy at Lumenate, a Dallas-based solution provider and longtime EMC channel partner.

"Everyone is trying to get involved with object storage on flash arrays," Shepard told CRN. "Just look at what Pure Storage is doing with its new FlashBlade. Object store on flash? Who would have thought about that a year ago?"

EMC Unity by itself is not particularly disruptive, as it falls in line with what many competitors are doing, Shepard said.

But when combined with Cisco UCS servers, EMC Unity could be very disruptive in the midrange storage market and in remote and branch offices, Shepard said.

"Get Cisco UCS model C servers and attach them to Unity, and you get file, block and object storage with a lot of flexibility," he said. "Customers could buy three UCS-C servers and Unity for a total of under $90,000. This would be a great solution for remote offices, and could be used for business analytics or to light up a little Hadoop cluster."

"It's real good timing," he said. "It won't screw up second-quarter deals. This will actually accelerate second-quarter sales."

There is one issue with the new product, Shepard said: The name "Unity."

"I thought EMC was changing the Unity name," he said. "Other vendors use 'Unity.' "

One of those vendors is Campbell, Calif.-based Nexsan, which earlier this week unveiled Nexsan Unity, the first iteration of what is expected to be a wide range of solutions that combines file sync and share with data in both the file and block format.

A top executive at a second channel partner told CRN under condition of anonymity that EMC Unity sounds like a compelling solution on the surface.

"A less expensive all-flash array ought to help [EMC] compete with the Pures of the world," the solution provider said. "EMC creates premium product, but I think they've lost market share to those who don't want to pay premium prices, so I think they'd call this a win-win."

A chief technology officer for a large EMC enterprise partner, who did not want to be identified, said he sees the new all-flash array as a game changer that could put the whammy on other all-flash competitors.

"EMC should have done this three years ago," the CTO told CRN. "EMC's traditional platforms are targeted in the multi-hundred-thousand-dollar crowd. Up until now, they really haven't competed against Nimble, Tintri and the myriad of all-flash arrays that are out there. On the street, the biggest struggle is [that EMC doesn't] have anything that competes in the commercial market."

Key to how successful the new Unity product will be in the market is whether it has the capability to scale up to 500 terabytes, the CTO said.

"That is about where most of the flash solutions top out," he said. "If Unity goes that high, it will completely cannibalize sales of VNX and smaller VMAX arrays and every other storage vendor out there with the best brand in the market. And if it is truly priced similar to or less than Pure Storage and feature-to-feature competitive, it will be a winner."