EMC Poised To Launch Network Virtualization Product

The Storage Router, as it is called for now, was originally discussed almost a year ago, and is aimed at increasing storage network performance at a fraction of the cost of competitive offerings from IBM and Hitachi.

Lewis outlined the product, which will be marketed under an as yet to be named new EMC platform brand, at the storage vendor's first ever software conference in Las Vegas. He said EMC has not yet priced the product, which is currently being beta tested. The product will initially be sold through EMC's direct sales force, and will expand to the channel over time, EMC said.

Lewis described the Storage Router as a revolutionary breakthrough that puts EMC several years ahead of the competition in network virtualization. EMC is providing the software that manages the network virtualization, said Lewis, accompanied by new next generation switches from Cisco, McData and Brocade. "Together, it becomes a storage router," said Lewis. "Without our software, you have an intelligent switch that just doesn't have intelligence loaded in. And without their hardware, we have software but no place to run the software."

EMC will initially sell the product, which is aimed at the Fortune 1000 customers, through its direct sales force, said Lewis. EMC currently resells switches from Cisco, Brocade and McData under the EMC Connectrix logo. EMC is the largest supplier of switches today to corporations, said Lewis. "This isn't a change for us," he said.

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Lewis promised that the difference in pricing and performance when compared with competitive offerings from IBM and Hitachi will be striking. Customers currently have to buy new arrays in addition to switches and software to provide network virtualization, said Lewis. "That's a huge new investment [for customers]," he said. "With the Storage Router and what we are doing, you are going to pay a bit of a premium for intelligent switches but you are going to get a switch, so you are going to get a networking capability that is completely additive. So you can add ports to your SAN, if you will. Then you will have the cost of the software. In a relative sense to these other products it is going to be literally an order of magnitude less money total cost to get into EMC virtualization than it is today with our competitors."

Lewis said that, in his experience, the difference in technology between competitors ranges from slight to miniscule, but not this time. "This is the first area I have seen in a decade where I think EMC has a multi-year and significant technology advantage on our competition," he said.

Lewis said network virtualization has not taken off as it should because vendors have introduced the wrong technology.

In his keynote address, Lewis told some 600 attendees at the conference that EMC is planning to reduce the number of products it brings to market over the next several years as it delivers information lifecycle management solutions.

"From a product perspective, I would like to see us get to four or five core products and ultimately all those products work together in a Microsoft Office-like format," he said. "Right now there are 25."

JOSEPH F. KOVAR contributed to this story