EMC's flash storage refresh is more bark than bite, argues Wikibon CTO David Floyer. General...

EMC's flash storage refresh is more bark than bite, argues Wikibon CTO David Floyer. General availability for EMC's XtremIO flash storage system isn't expected until the summer of 2014 (EMC offers "directed availability" for now), and its XtremSF server flash cards only support the caching/reading of data found on external storage - by comparison, cards from Fusion-io (FIO) and others also support data writes, allowing them to run databases and Web/cloud services. Floyer's takeaway: EMC is still trying to protect sales of its high-end Symmetrix VMAX systems. Update: Floyer responds by stating EMC's XtremSF server flash cards do indeed support full read/write capabilities - a Silicon Angle article discussing his views had indicated otherwise. He also predicts EMC's XtremIO systems "will probably become the leading flash-only array product in the marketplace."
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Comments (10)
  • Brandond
    , contributor
    Comments (513) | Send Message
    As someone that owns a lot of FIO and a decent size EMC position, this makes me hope EMC considers buying FIO before they are snapped up by someone like HPQ, Netap or Cisco.


    FIO seems vulnerable to a takeover with its stock price depressed due to delay of two customer orders at end of last quarter.
    8 Mar 2013, 06:44 PM Reply Like
  • sabalos
    , contributor
    Comments (107) | Send Message
    I too am in the same position with EMC and FIO.I suggest EMC is penny wise and pound foolish.EMC could shut the door on competition
    and pick up a very valuable asset in their biggest business area.
    8 Mar 2013, 07:03 PM Reply Like
  • Brandond
    , contributor
    Comments (513) | Send Message
    Agreed they are penny wise and pound foolish; VMware losing traction and EMC's competitor to FIO will not be available until 2014 but no sense of urgency at EMC. FIO would be an easy "tuck in" for EMC so we'll see.
    8 Mar 2013, 07:22 PM Reply Like
  • meridian6
    , contributor
    Comments (448) | Send Message
    EMC is better off buying Violin Memory. Violin offers SAS as well as SAN solutions. Violin's new IP deal with Toshiba will bring the fastest PCIes at the lowest price point.


    Violin will also benefit from their foundry relationship with access to newest products at cost. Toshiba now delivers 19nm NAND, the smallest and highest density NAND in the world. Violin benefits fro that relationship.


    Rapid changes are coming in the next few quarters. You'll see die size continue to shrink down to as low as 10nm, which means NAND will benefit from Moore's Law in doubling capacity/lowering prices.


    After that we go to 3D NAND. In that space, only Toshiba and Samsung with decent designs.


    I think it'll be hard for players to be in this space without a foundry relationship. You can't just buy NAND chips from spot market and expect to have consistent latency and be competitive, let along access to the lowest cost per GB.


    Enterprise NAND storage is a SEMICONDUCTOR business. NAND is cheap but tricky. It has read/write cycle limits, latency issues, etc. You want to invest in companies with big controller tech to resolve these issues. If it was easy, EMC and IBM would have killer products out there already.


    The company with IP in this space is Violin Memory. Lowest latency, highest consistency read/write, big controller tech, backed by Toshiba - inventor of NAND.


    EMC was able to resell WD and Seagate drives because of excess capacity and consolidation in the space. There were literally dozens of hard drive companies in the 80s and 90s.


    This time is different because there are very few NAND makers. Toshiba has 36% market share, Samsung has 36% market share, Micron 11%, Hynix 10%, Intel 7%.


    If you add up all the NAND fab production capacity, it barely comes to 20% of the storage in use today, so capacity constraint will be an issue, and IP will be a differentiator.


    It astounds me how many investors don't understand how tech works before investing.
    9 Mar 2013, 06:17 AM Reply Like
  • watchingclosely
    , contributor
    Comment (1) | Send Message
    If you didn't notice - Facebook and Apple pushed their orders 2 quarters, leaving FIO twisting in the wind. For a relationship that has existed since 2008 and was 'strong' one would think Facebook could have found an softer solution than letting is partner get crushed in the market. I would also ask if 'Apple really pushed' or was it convenience to lump them together because if the magnitude of Facebook exposure was really understood - it would really scare the markets.


    And without being too specific - Facebook did do a huge storage buy from an existing (large) player that would surprise most folks - that was instead of FIO. It was to solve a specific application need, but it was a massive buy.


    There is a lot going on behind the scenes. Facebook let FIO twist in the wind for their last earnings - they didn't have to do that. One should ask what really happened there. I personally don't know, but do know it could have been made softer or couched in different terms if they were truly "partners."
    11 Mar 2013, 06:38 AM Reply Like
  • Brandond
    , contributor
    Comments (513) | Send Message
    Those are fair points and my greatest fear with FIO has always been their large concentration of revenues with their 2 largest customers. From having worked at startups, I can tell you that large companies love to throw their weight around and leverage their power during hte sales cycle. That dynamic can significantly change if FIO is purchased by a larger company which would be less dependent on FB or Apple and can better negotiate from a position of strength.
    11 Mar 2013, 07:34 AM Reply Like
  • Dfloyer
    , contributor
    Comment (1) | Send Message
    I would like to correct some facts and opinions that have been attributed to me:
    - The EMC XtremIO all-flash array is available in 2013, and not 2014 as indicated above;
    - The EMC XtremSF PCIe cards can be used for direct server-attached storage volumes, and have full read/write capability;
    - XtremSF can also be used with XtremSW software as read-only caching (random-write data is written round-robin to the PCIe card, then stored-through to the storage array; an acknowledgement of the IO write is sent to the server from the storage array).


    The views attributed to me by Seeking Alpha do not reflect my opinion about the XtremIO all-flash storage array. Given the strong architecture, assuming EMC does not delay delivering effective storage services, and given EMC's reputation for quality and its world-wide marketing strength, I believe that XtremIO will probably become the leading flash-only array product in the marketplace. With a good pricing strategy, It has the potential to become ubiquitous, in both large and small installations.


    The full details of my analysis can be found at http://bit.ly/ZtMfGn. Further research on the PCIe cards will be published soon.


    David Floyer, CTO & Co-founder, Wikibon
    http://www.wikibon.org, @dfloyer, David.Floyer@wikibon.org
    11 Mar 2013, 09:06 AM Reply Like
  • Eric Jhonsa
    , contributor
    Comments (1276) | Send Message


    Thanks for the update. The post has been updated to make note of your response. Regarding a couple of your remarks:


    - It has been written elsewhere that general availability for the XtremIO array won't arrive until the summer of 2014. The post mentions "directed availability" currently exists.




    - The Silicon Angle article discussing your take on EMC's hardware, and which was referenced by this post, features the following lines.




    "EMC has chosen not to supplement the array with full read/write PCIe server flash cards. It obviously is trying to protect its large installed base of VMAX high-performance disk arrays, but by so doing it has left itself vulnerable in the market to Fusion-io and the other PCIe vendors."


    Hence the line about full read/write capabilities not being supported. However, I see that you've also left a comment on Silicon Angle to clarify that they do.


    11 Mar 2013, 09:48 AM Reply Like
  • treees
    , contributor
    Comments (7) | Send Message
    Who did Facebook make its massive storage buy from? Instead of FIO
    23 Mar 2013, 09:16 PM Reply Like
  • meridian6
    , contributor
    Comments (448) | Send Message
    Facebook has their own agenda. They're pushing Open Compute.


    They're using PCIes for caching not storage.


    Commodity PCIes for some servers can be reused, an that's what they're doing.


    Frankly, PCIe adaptation has been a big yawn thus far. What FIO has sold is just for IT managers to play with it, not buy in earnest.
    24 Mar 2013, 10:41 AM Reply Like
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