EMC execs discuss future of flash technology in the enterprise

EMC executives discuss the many different ways Flash can be used in the enterprise and what future advances it will bring.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

SAN FRANCISCO -- Adoption of flash technology is growing rapidly with enterprise customers, but industry execs argue that there is still some confusion about the different kinds of flash available, applicable use cases, and overall costs.

Aiming to grab the lead when it comes to selling flash technology and related services in the enterprise space, EMC created a dedicated flash storage division last year, which was strengthened by the acquisition of XtremIO, an Israeli flash storage architecture firm, this past May.

On Tuesday, a pair of executives from EMC sat down with a small group of reporters to discuss the IT solutions provider's ongoing strategy for flash technology adoption.

EMC has a few different products in the pipeline, but essentially, this unit is focused on moving towards and promoting the second generation of flash.

Dan Cobb, EMC's chief technology officer of the flash products unit, explained that the first generation of flash storage overall was about getting the media to work for enterprise data and form factors that were convenient. He added that the exposure around consumer flash devices also helped bring prices down and spiked deployment.

But the move to version two will be very interesting, he continued, explaining that this time it will be more about new architectures, applications and deployment models while being built from components that are "increasingly standardized," whether it be physical form factors or how the devices interact with software interfaces.

One of the products that EMC is working on right now is dubbed "Project X," which is an array product that derives from the resources and solutions included in the XtremeIO deal.

Zahid Hussain, senior vice president of EMC’s newly-formed flash products division, framed Project X as a more exceptional product because it is "really premised from the ground up on flash."

Hussain explained that up until now, all of EMC's array products had flash, but it was typically in a hybrid environment consisting of flash and spinning media/hard disks.

With Project X, Hussain described, EMC is taking a different view in favor of large sets of workloads that can benefit from all-flash environments. He remarked that there's a lot of customer interest in taking this direction for both existing workloads and new sets of workloads.

When asked about any potential competition for these strategies, the EMC execs seemed confident that there is no competition -- at least not yet -- stating that no one else is offering support from the server tier to array tier.

Citing more customer feedback, Hussain said that you'll find vendors offering to integrate flash onto a device, but that's not enough. He argued that customers are more concerned now about support services and capabilities, such as more efficiency and resilience without compromising performance.

"I don't know if anyone has the breadth of capabilities that we have," Hussain replied, "We've been in flash for a lot of years now. The industry is at a stage where they're looking at that next big evolutionary change to not just all flash arrays, but with those sets of services and capabilities."

Hussain concluded that a big part of what EMC must do now is not only create these building blocks for customers, but stitch them together as a coherent environment in terms of how data is provisioned and moved from tier to tier. He added that's not just a concern for the flash division, but across EMC overall.

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