Cloud Environment Innovation Promised By EMC

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EMC, preparing to launch Project Lightning, seeks better ways to move VM workloads around data centres

EMC claims that it is at the forefront of business’ migration to the cloud-computing model – not only with its expanding storage portfolio but also its expertise in virtualisation, security capabilities and strong management software.

At the EMC Forum 2011 event in Boston, Massachusetts,  executives continued to tout the company’s position, saying EMC’s product portfolio is well positioned at the intersection of two key trends in today’s high-tech industry – cloud computing and “big data” – and that it is continuing to drive innovation to meet business demand in both areas.

Riding the waves of disruption

Speaking before several hundred customers, partners, analysts and journalists, EMC president and COO Pat Gelsinger spoke of the rapid transition in the industry toward cloud and data analytics, and added that “these waves of disruption create tremendous challenges as well as tremendous opportunities”.

To address the various drivers that are leading enterprises to cloud computing and forcing them deal with big data, data centres need to become increasingly virtualised, flexible, scalable, secure and automated, Gelsinger said. EMC’s role is to help businesses deploy the infrastructure necessary to make the move to hybrid cloud environments and to collect, store and analyse the massive amounts of data being generated by those companies every day.

EMC has been aggressive in expanding its portfolio to put itself in a position to address such customer demands, as evidenced by the $10.5 billion (£6.6bn) the company invested in research and development over the past eight years, and the $14 billion (£8.9bn) it has spent buying companies to fill out its offerings, from virtualisation technology vendor VMware to Data Domain, Isilon and Greenplum, he said.

When EMC announced that third-quarter revenues jumped 18 percent over the same period in 2010, and net income rose 28 percent, officials and analysts pointed to rising demand for the vendor’s cloud and storage technologies as the key drivers.

During the event here, Gelsinger outlined several ways EMC officials are looking to grow the capabilities of their products to help businesses make the move to the cloud. Its Project Lightning technology, which essentially is a PCIe flash card that can be plugged into a slot in the server to move virtual machines (VMs) and their workloads around the data centre, should launch later this year or in early 2012, he said.

Project Lightning has been in beta since earlier this month, where it has gotten a tremendous reception from customers who are looking for faster and more efficient ways to move and retrieve data in data centres, Gelsinger told eWEEK after his keynote. The flash card brings data closer to the processor than in traditional storage environments, and users can leverage EMC’s Fully Automated Storage Tiering (FAST) to tier storage across multiple devices.

He gave kudos to Fusion-io for pioneering this idea, but said EMC will do it better, and with more supporting technology.

Moving virtual machines

At the same time, EMC is also working with its VMware subsidiary to enable IT administrators to use the latter’s VMotion technology to not only move VMs and their workloads between physical servers, but also into and out of storage devices.

EMC also is looking to simplify the management software for its disparate offerings, including the possibility of using VMware’s vCenter as the standard technology to manage all resources in a virtualised data centre environment.

In addition, EMC also announced options that will help scale the company’s VNX unified storage system. A new high-bandwidth option for the VNX5500 will deliver 6.5G bps performance, which the company said is a 50 percent improvement over what the technology now delivers. The system is optimised for such tasks as high-bandwidth data warehousing from Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle, as well as high-end video production and gas and oil tasks, according officials.

A new dense configuration and the introduction of three-terabyte near-line, serial-attached SCSI (NL-SAS) drives are aimed at businesses with floor-space concerns or large amounts of less active data. The configuration includes a dense 4U drive chassis that holds 60 drives and the option of flash, SAS and NL-SAS drives.

In addition, the new Flash EMC VNX5500-F is designed for high availability for mission-critical Microsoft and Oracle OLTP workloads. The system offers 10 times the performance at 80 percent of the cost per TPM (transactions per minute), compared with EMC’s all hard-disk drive VNX.

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