Competitors Chime In On EMC's XtremIO Rollout Before It Hits

EMC XtremIO: Competitors Rush To Judge

One way to judge the importance of a new product announcement is to watch competitors hit the market with statements about the launch. Sometimes there's support for the launch because of the new product's visibility. Usually it's an opportunity for rivals to stake out a competitive position for their own products.

The latter is certainly the case in an outbreak of competitor statements about EMC's XtremIO all-flash array. EMC has made no secret its launch is set for Thursday. Indeed, EMC is inviting the IT industry to the launch.

CRN has brought together comments direct from EMC's competitors in this nice little package. When reading the comments, however, please note that EMC has not officially released all the speeds, feeds, pricing, and marketing details. These competitors' statements are based on information made public to date.

Turn the page, and let the games begin!

What We DO Know About EMC XtremIO

EMC in May 2012 acquired XtremIO, an Israel-based startup developer of all-flash storage arrays that at the time had only shipped a couple of beta units.

EMC in March said XtremIO is at its heart based on proprietary software running on industry-standard server and SSDs. Each 4U XtremIO storage block, which EMC calls an X-Brick, supposedly has a capacity of 6.763 TB without deduplication, and it offers more than 150,000 functional 4-KB mixed read-write IOs per second and 250,000 functional 4-KB read IOPS. The array features scale-out operation so that adding a new X-Brick scales both capacity and performance linearly. XtremIO also utilizes all the flash storage components and other components across the system to increase performance.

The EMC XtremIO all-flash array is a part of EMC's new Emerging Technology Products Division, under the leadership of Chirantan "CJ" Desai, who in September joined EMC as president of the division.

Dell: Integrated Solutions Are Better

Dell in October introduced technology in its Compellent line of all-flash or hybrid flash-disk arrays to do auto-tiering between SLC and MLC flash to increase the technology's performance vs. cost ratio, a unique differentiator for the company, wrote Travis Vigil, executive director of Dell Storage, in a statement.

"The number one barrier to flash adoption historically has been cost. Dell's unique approach combines SLC and MLC flash drives with our automated tiering to provide all-flash performance that is four to six time more cost-effective than any other major vendor's all-flash solution. EMC's approach is not integrated with their existing storage offerings, trapping customers into a siloed storage approach that appears to lack the enterprise features -- such as integrated replication -- as well as other industry software and backup integrations customers might have expected. Dell's all-flash solution offers a huge cost advantage along with all of the full-featured functionality one would expect in a traditional storage array," Vigil wrote.

HDS: Thanks EMC For Highlighting Flash, Here's Why We're Better

Bob Madaio, senior director of product marketing for Hitachi Data Systems, said in a statement that his company heartily welcomes EMC's "long-expected delivery" of the XtremIO because EMC's "marketing machine" has helped push the discussion about flash storage technology and how different vendors approach the market.

"Bottom line: [XtremIO is] a similar approach to other all-flash storage silos that have been in the market for well over a year. HDS, on the other hand, has taken an entirely different approach to delivering the performance and data management advantages of flash storage, while lowering the total cost of ownership for our customers. We've taken a 'best of both worlds' strategy, in that we have introduced purpose-built flash technology that spans our existing storage product portfolio, allowing our customers to reap the performance benefits of next generation flash technology with a broad suite of tested and proven data management tools," Madaio said in his statement.

IBM: Not All Flash Is Created Equal

IBM, which last year acquired flash storage pioneer Texas Memory Systems (TMS), in a statement highlighted the differences between the SSD technology expected to be offered with EMC XtremIO and the flash technology in the IBM FlashSystem 820 (shown here), which fits 1 petabyte of flash storage into a rack.

IBM wrote that all flash is not created equal, and that technology decisions and goals vary between manufacturers while operational challenges vary wildly between customers. EMC XtremIO, IBM wrote, is based on SSD technology, which places flash memory on a small circuit board and then into a physical disk drive enclosure that fits in a drive array chassis that is then connected to an SAS backplane via an SAS interface. "SAS adds latency, slowing data access," IBM wrote.

IBM's FlashSystem is based on eMLC NAND flash memory modules connected directly onto the system motherboard to decrease latency and increase throughput compared to SAS, IBM wrote.

Kaminario: Already On Fourth Version Of All-Flash Array

Ritu Jyoti, vice president of product management at Kaminario, wondered in her statement what the big deal was about EMC's first all-flash storage array.

"While XtremIO is expected to announce their first all-flash, scale-out array tomorrow, we're already on our fourth -- and have built a mature architecture with 99.999 percent uptime, a proven customer base and top-notch TCO in the process. Kaminario is exclusively focused on honing our architecture, executing against our roadmap and making our customers successful. EMC and XtremIO are just launching off their first generation now. We wish them luck in trying to close the gap," Jyoti wrote.

Nutanix: Bring Flash To The Apps

Sudheesh Nair, vice president of worldwide sales at Nutanix, wrote in a statement that XtremIO does a great job of putting performance and scale-out into an array.

"But why would anyone want an array that is removed from where the applications live? The cycle of technology disruption has shortened from around 10 years to 4, making it very difficult for large companies to plot effective competitive strategies. As an example, it took EMC 18 months to bring their acquisition of [(XtremIO] to market. They entirely missed the new requirement for server-side compute as part of an optimal virtualized datacenter infrastructure," Nair wrote.

Pure Storage: Our Tech Is Similar, But We Have Three Years On EMC XtremIO

Pure Storage CEO Scott Dietzen wrote in a Wednesday blog post that it's no accident XtremIO and Pure Storage look very similar. All-flash storage, Dietzen wrote, needs high availability with dual-parity or better RAID protection, the ability to do no-disruptive upgrades, in-line deduplication, and no-overhead snapshots and clones. "Pure and XtremIO are the only all-flash arrays offering this feature set today, and I submit that our mutual competitors are still a long way from delivering the above recipe. ... The last place you want to be as an early-stage company is looking up at EMC because you are behind on critical features, but that is arguably where the rest of the all-flash field wakes up tomorrow, with Pure Storage the notable exception." Dietzen said that, while it may seem odd to give EMC so much credit, Pure Storage offers several advantages stemming from running production workloads for three years, including a hardened architecture, persistent metadata, lossless deduplication, scale-up and scale-out design (vs. the scale-out design of XtremIO), and variable block sizes.

Violin Memory: What Gives, EMC?

Matt Barletta, vice president of corporate marketing for Violin Memory, wrote in a simple statement, "It will be an amazing moment when EMC cannibalizes its high margin VMAX business for commodity Linux servers and a shelf of SSDs that anyone could buy."

X-IO: Too Much Hype Over All-Flash Storage Solutions

Gavin McLaughlin, international solutions development director at X-IO, which offers modular hybrid solutions combining flash storage and hard disk, wrote in a statement that his company has a "touch of bewilderment" about the EMC XtremIO launch. "With the increasing market-wide realization that flash is a tool, not necessarily a solution to the challenge of performance storage, it has to be wondered why EMC [has] launched this as a standalone product. Market surveys have recently shown that the ideal form of storage is a balance of cost, risk and growth (both in the form of capacity and performance) and that the ideal way to achieve this is by using real-time tiered hybrid storage rather than all flash," McLaughlin wrote.

McLaughlin also questioned why EMC doesn't offer an inclusive 5-year warranty on the XtremIO arrays, a warranty X-IO just happens to offer for its solution. "Surely if EMC believe they can last 5 years then they'd include such a guarantee," he wrote.


Not Present, But Accounted For

EMC is or will be beset by several other competitors that did not offer competitive statements in advance, including:

* Cisco in September unveiled plans to acquire Whiptail, an all-flash storage array developer. Cisco, which has a joint venture with EMC in VCE, a developer of converged infrastructure solutions, has been careful to say that the Whiptail technology will be part of its UCS server infrastructure and will not compete against EMC or other partners.

* Hewlett-Packard in June unveiled an all-flash version of its 3PAR array, pictured on the left.

* NetApp in March unveiled its "FlashRay" project to build its own all-flash storage arrays. The FlashRay technology is expected to be available starting in 2014.

EMC Responds!

Josh Goldstein, vice president of marketing and product management for XtremIO, reminded industry watchers in a statement that EMC pioneered the use of flash within enterprise arrays in 2008.

"Today we lead the market in incorporating flash into our existing portfolio -- with hybrid arrays that can go from 0-100% flash. EMC is pushing the opportunity of flash even further with XtremIO. It's not just about using flash to deliver more IOPS -- that's been done. It's about using flash and intelligent software to change the modern virtualized data center in ways that couldn't have been done in the past and moving beyond disk-based architectures. EMC is once again leading the pack and tomorrow's announcement will show how," Goldstein wrote.