Top storage competitors put the lid on their offerings

What happens when two storage specialists get an opportunity to joust? Mark Latchford of IBM and Steve Redman from EMC go head-to-head.

What happens when two storage specialists get an opportunity to joust? Mark Latchford, General Manager, Systems and Technology Group, IBM Australia and Steve Redman, EMC Asia-Pacific Software group vice president (previously EMC Australia managing director) go head-to-head.

Mark Latchford, General Manager, Systems and Technology Group, IBM Australia

Mark Latchford, General Manager, Systems and Technology Group, IBM Australia

About IBM
The open storage solutions from IBM's Systems and Technology group are designed to facilitate e-business collaboration by integrating modular technologies including disk, tape, and optical storage media, powerful processors, and software.

Latchford: Eighteen months ago, EMC was saying that virtualisation was just an IBM marketing ploy. Now, you've introduced your first virtualisation product; why the change of heart?

Redman: There is no change of heart. We have always believed in using the right technology for the right reasons, and virtualisation is not a cure-all for everything. It doesn't replace existing solutions. It should be used to solve problems you can't solve any other way.

Doing heterogeneous storage management, replication, and reducing storage complexity are not virtualisation issues. Virtualisation brings new solutions, such as the ability to replace hardware non-disruptively and to move volume management into the network.

Redman: What does information lifecycle management (ILM) mean to IBM and its customers?

Latchford: ILM is the process of managing information -- from creation to disposal -- in a manner that aligns costs with the changing value of information. It enables our customers to catalogue, search, archive, retrieve, and destroy information assets in a manner that is consistent with commercial, regulatory and legal requirements.

Central to ILM is the ability to classify and then manage information according to business policies so information can be managed according to its value. These policies can include time and access frequency, events and "permissions" (retention rules assigned to individuals or groups), or some combination thereof.

By enabling ILM technologies in a tiered storage environment, IBM provides many benefits to our customers, including the:

  • Intelligent management of information throughout its lifecycle, and, when appropriate, destruction to free up storage resources.
  • Improvement in the performance of applications by moving rarely or never accessed information to lower cost storage resources.
  • Retention of information assets in accordance with business value as implemented through corporate policies.
  • Automation of information lifecycle management, reducing the errors and resources associated with manual approaches to data management.
  • Management of information in a manner that optimises storage and access, allowing for efficient utilisation of tiered storage, consolidation of existing storage and skilful planning for storage growth.

Latchford: So, now that EMC has introduced the virtualisation router, is this the total of your virtualisation strategy? Do you have additional virtualisation offerings and choices to offer customers beyond this initial block-based virtualisation router?

Redman: Firstly, EMC has been leading in virtualisation technologies in a number of areas for quite some time (ie, with VMware, the leader in Intel virtualisation, with file-based virtualisation through EMC-NAS and content virtualisation with CAS).

Secondly, EMC Invista already has a stated roadmap which includes additional capabilities such as over-subscription, continuous data protection and heterogeneous replication, and that's just the beginning.

More importantly, customers who use virtualisation technologies today find it very difficult to manage the end to end service level, and only EMC -- through technologies such as SMARTs -- is bringing the management coordination technologies to market, which reconstruct the service level in this distributed and virtualised environment.

Redman: What tools and services does IBM have to help customers implement an ILM solution?

Latchford: IBM's extensive set of software and hardware offerings provide our customers choices when developing an ILM strategy and implementation plan.

IBM Global Services (with 180,000 professionals in 160 countries) can provide our customers with extensive help in developing their ILM strategy, as well as providing assessments, migration, integration, and implementations in ILM, business risk and compliance, business continuity, infrastructure simplification, and other IT requirements.
Steve Redman, Managing Director, EMC Australia

Steve Redman, EMC Asia-Pacific Software group vice president (previously EMC Australia managing director)

About EMC
EMC Corporation provides products, services, and solutions for information storage -- helping organisations manage, use, protect, and share their information assets throughout the data's lifecycle.

IBM also has a suite of software products, including TotalStorage Productivity Centre, SAN File System, DB2 Content Manager, Commonstore, and Tivoli Storage Manager, that allow our customers to analyse data, classify it, and store it on the most appropriate device. Coupled with IBM's hardware for data retention, IBM provides ILM solutions ranging from document management to e-mail archive.

Latchford: In an era where customers want to do more with less, the idea behind storage virtualisation is to reduce costs and improve performance. What proof points -- such as industry benchmarks -- does EMC offer to show that their storage virtualisation offerings do this?

Redman: How can you reduce cost by buying more equipment and adding a layer of complexity to your environment?

Funnily enough EMC has gained a great reputation over the last few years for driving down the cost of information storage. Driving down cost is one of the major goals of ILM.

ILM helps customers simplify their environment using consolidation technologies like networked storage and server virtualisation (such as VMware) to improve utilisation and flexibility. The other aspect from an operational point-of-view is to do more with less. Here we see automation software like EMC's range of Storage Resource Management helping administrators manage their heterogeneous environment from "one pane of glass".

Redman: What is IBM's approach to archiving?

Latchford: IBM bases its approach to archiving around three core ideas:

  • Know your data.
  • Automate and manage active data.
  • Archive and dispose of inactive data based on policies and events.
We then have four key archiving solutions: e-mail archiving, database archiving, content management, and regulatory compliance.

IBM's approach is to identify, classify, and place the active data on the most appropriate device to meet the business needs.

Inactive data is archived to a lower-cost storage (typically SATA or Tape), based on the time-to-retrieve and the cost-of-ownership requirements.

Latchford: By adopting IBM's server technologies, our storage solutions are continually becoming faster and more powerful. As a standalone storage vendor, are you confident that your products will keep pace?

Redman: I am a little puzzled by this question because a lot of IBM's storage range is OEMed from other manufacturers. EMC is the worldwide market leader in information storage and management. To maintain and extend our leadership, this year alone EMC will spend nearly US$1 billion on R&D. I estimate that this is more than the next 10 competitors combined!

It is also quite amusing that IBM's high-end range and our DMX both use PowerPC microprocessors. The difference between them is that the EMC DMX can have up to 128 of these working together. In the mid-tier, EMC's CLARiiON range is based on an Intel architecture and EMC has been able to double the performance of the range on average every 18 months at about the same cost. (This is about twice as quick as others are able to bring new products to market.) This means that EMC is the price/performance leader in all the categories we compete in.

From a customer's point of view the key issue in upgrading is how painful is it?

All EMC products run a consistent "operating" system, and this means the upgrade preserves the maximum amount of investment as they go forward. Also as new functionality comes out, older systems get more capable!

A number of EMC's new customers are telling me that IBM's history of switching between its own products and products that are OEMed causes them immense pain in upgrading. Basically IBM's upgrade becomes a new install and they go to market. EMC shows companies how we do data-in-place upgrades from one generation to the next . . . and they become EMC customers.   

Redman: What are the three top ways a can customer improve their storage utilisation?

Latchford: I can answer that by expanding on my answers to the previous question:

  • Know your data: Analyse your data and identify duplicate, redundant and non-valid data. Delete or archive this to improve storage capacity utilisation.
  • Automate and manage active data: Create a pool of storage with IBM's storage virtualisation. Manage data via policies and place it on the most appropriate device according to its value to the business. This improves utilisation of capacity across all classes of storage.
  • Archive and dispose of inactive data: Archive and delete data based on the age or the event, and improving utilisation and TCO by archiving inactive data to lower cost media.

Latchford: IBM is able to offer customers a comprehensive mix of hardware, software and services, including specialists with deep industry knowledge. Can EMC match this?

Redman: EMC is the storage and information management leader from a market-share perspective. This is backed up by our growth (customers are voting with their wallets), and analysts like Gartner who place EMC in the leadership quadrant for six key categories. As a market leader with over 22,000 employees and a range of partners, EMC meets and exceeds our customers' needs everyday.

Redman: What is your storage platform strategy -- will you continue to have an OEM relationship or are you going to produce your own technology?

Latchford: IBM's strategy is to make available to our customers the best technology in the market. The IBM DS6000 and DS8000 enterprise disk solutions combined with the IBM LTO and 3592 tape technologies are examples of IBM leadership in research, development, and manufacturing of IBM technology. IBM also OEMs a range of products to provide the best technology to our customers. We will continue to OEM selected products where it makes sense; namely to provide value and solutions in a timely fashion for our customers.

Latchford: EMC has been traditionally seen as a big enterprise player. But most Australian companies are SMBs -- how are you working to solve their storage challenges?

Redman: I'm surprised that you are this out of date, or maybe we haven't managed to change people's perceptions! Over the past few years EMC has dramatically increased its product sets, releasing a whole range of new products aimed squarely at the SMB market. For example, EMC released the AX100 which halved the cost of getting into SAN technology, which today is in the market at about $8000. Earlier in the year we released four Express Solutions aimed at solving SMBs' issues around backup, storage consolidation, archive, and e-mail. These solutions include a range of EMC software, EMC services, and EMC storage systems, built into a solution to solve typical SMB issues that they have been telling us they are facing.

I think the SMB customers themselves are also saying that we are relevant with over 160 new customers purchasing EMC for the first time last year. When you add these new customers to the growth in our market share, today EMC is more relevant than ever to the SMB market.

In fact, the ACA did some research at the beginning of the year into what problems the typical SMB has when it comes to their IT infrastructure. Interestingly 19 percent of SMBs say that backup, archive, and recovery are driving their spending decisions. Backup and e-mail are also driving their need for additional storage, and EMC, with our backup and e-mail management software range (including products from Legato and Dantz) provide the cornerstone for a very strong story for any SMB or mid-sized company.

Redman: What does the OEM strategy mean to the customers of IBM?

Latchford: In a word -- choice. A combination of IBM manufacturing and OEM relationships gives IBM's customers access to the best technology at the lowest cost-of-ownership, end-to-end solutions, and a complete portfolio of storage, servers, and services.

Latchford: What routes to market -- such as the business partner channel, Dell, and its direct sales force -- will EMC use to deliver the storage router to customers, and how will those routes to market be enabled upon general availability?

Redman: The EMC Invista virtualisation product will be available through EMC and all of our EMC Velocity partners. All EMC products have a standard set of partner enablement tools and certification. Our channel team is in the process of rolling out those programs to our partners.

Redman: IBM has both called Invista [storage virtualisation software] the "storage industry's version of a cap gun" and EMC "a strong competitor". Which is it?

Latchford: EMC has traditionally been a strong competitor against IBM in the disk market place. However, when it comes to storage virtualisation, EMC has lagged the industry. IBM announced storage virtualisation in 2003 and recently released the seventh generation of storage virtualisation software. Robust and functional, the IBM virtualisation software supports all the major server and storage vendors in the industry (including support for the EMC CX and DMX disk products). In comparison, EMC recently announced Invista, an unproven technology that provides a fraction of IBM's virtualisation software capabilities. So while we respect EMC, we don't believe Invista is going to deliver on customers needs when it comes to storage virtualisation.

Latchford: A lot of EMC's recent growth seems to have come from its acquisitions. How are you going to continue growing once no more consolidation is possible?

Redman: EMC has definitely been growing fast. In fact, last year EMC grew by 32 percent, but an apples-to-apples comparison shows that EMC's "traditional business" grew by 21 percent last year. (That is without the major acquisitions.) That was the fastest growth of any top 10 IT company last year, showing EMC's strategy of acquiring growing companies whose technologies complete the ILM strategy is delivering results. Last year the market for the top eight storage vendors grew by US$1.7 billion and EMC grew by US$1.2 billion, so it's quite clear that customers are choosing EMC to solve their information and storage problems.

While the acquisitions strategy is bearing fruit and strengthening, last quarter EMC CLARiiON's revenues grew by 47 percent year over year and EMC Celerra NAS revenue grew by 40 percent. Not only has EMC grown but our business has changed. Today 37 percent of our business comes from software and 17 percent comes from services. That change means that today, which may surprise many people, EMC is the seventh largest software company in the world.

With some of our core products growing at plus 40 percent, EMC subsidiaries like VMware growing at over 100 percent -- I believe EMC will keep growing much faster than the market.

Redman: It has been announced that IBM currently has over 1000 customers using its virtualisation technology in a production environment. How many of these customers are in Australia?

Latchford: IBM has more than 30 customers in Australia using IBM's storage virtualisation technology. This is proportional to IBM Australia's share of the IBM storage business worldwide.

One of these customers is TransAction Solutions who have said that virtualisation has solved its problem of having mission critical data available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and has made the business better able to respond to changes in its business.

This article was first published in Technology & Business magazine.
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