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Further "day 1" thoughts on Atmos / Maui

By Michael Callahan

As my colleague Calvin Zito mentioned earlier today,  I wanted to make a few comments on EMC's announcement of the EMC Atmos (nee Maui). 

Since we first started talking publically about the ExDS9100 system in May, I've been struck by the incredible diversity of the software layers that people want to build on top of it.  In fact, quite a bit of this has been a surprise.  Much of the ExDS design grew out of our many years experience delivering software into environments very much like those which Atmos seems to target: Web 2.0 companies, telcos and service providers.  Based on that experience, we put a lot of emphasis on building something that could easily fit into existing environments (with standard racks!), be extremely simple to manage and, of course, be very cost-effective-while still offering a lot of flexibility in both hardware and software.  On the hardware front, a single ExDS9100 node scales from four blades to sixteen, and from roughly a quarter petabyte to over three-quarters (in just two floor tiles) -- and a customer can choose whatever combination of performance and capacity is desired, and even change the configuration of a running system by adding blades or capacity blocks.

But, as I said, what's particularly surprising to me is what has been happening on the software front -- how valuable it has been to offer flexibility there.  We know that EMC with Atmos is taking a proprietary, monolithic approach to the software layer that provides distributed replication, location services, and so on, on top of the basic building-block of local high-density storage -- but we think that's a mistake, and not what the market is looking for.  The last thing our customers want is to be locked in by a proprietary software layer that limits their technical options and ties them to one vendor. 

We have a whole set of customers-admittedly, the ones in the vanguard of these next-generation cloud applications -- who already have commitments to existing software that perform functions like these, whether built in-house, open source or commercial third party.  But even apart from these leading customers, we're finding that in other verticals, such as bioinformatics, oil and gas, and media, customers see tremendous value in the density, manageability and scalability of the ExDS system but are looking for very specific solutions with software stacks that are customized for their particular application needs.

For example, Calvin mentioned our partner Ocarina Networks.  With Ocarina, we've built a media archiving solution for a major film studio that allows it to maintain an online archive of its digital assets, using Ocarina's advanced content compression and optimization algorithms that include specific tuning for the data formats used in the industry.  Similarly, we've seen bioinformatics and oil and gas customers looking to bring parts of the software stack down into the storage layer, in ways that provide specific value to their applications.

Now, there are customers looking to adopt something in this space for the first time, and we'll work with them, including offering an HP-provided option -- but the key point is that our approach is based on supporting the customer's desire at once to have a market-leading storage system that provides unparalleled terabyte density, power efficiency and operational and acquisition cost effectiveness and at the same time let them retain the flexibility to build an appropriate software stack on top of that, that doesn't lock them in to one vendor.

We'll be talking more about how other customers are using the ExDS9100 in the coming months, but for now I'll just say that I think this emerging market for capacity-optimized storage is one where there will be more diversity and innovation, rather than less, and where customers will have more ability to customize their environments for their own needs -- and will not have to place all their data into some vendor's opaque cloud.

Michael Callahan, Chief Technologist
HP StorageWorks Scalable NAS Division

Pie in the Sky with Atmos?

Welcome to the party, EMC (Thanks Chuck for the preannouncement the other day and to all the other Twitter messages that made it clear what was happening). I'm glad after Joe Tucci promised this to be available in May and then again by the end of summer, you are finally announcing your product. But alas, we're still short on details. How much will you charge? We already announced pricing back in May, under $2GB. The HP StorageWorks 9100 Extreme Data Storage System (ExDS9100) will be shipping product around the end of November. EMC claimed general availability in June, but customers tell us it is not ready for prime time. Every single deal we have been in with EMC, we have won.

Now let us explore a few shortcomings in EMC's product (based on the few details we have) compared with the ExDS9100:

  • To compare with our ExDS9100 Max Config: it takes 3 racks of EMC's WS1 product (see hardware brochure) which includes 20 servers and 840 disks. This totals 6,452 lbs and 21 sq ft of floor space, compared to our 4,442 lbs and 12sqft.  Almost double the floor space and 50% heavier.  Better set aside some budget for that.
  • Hardware is:  Less storage, less CPU, less dense, fixed server/disk ratios, and in 2 of 3 rack options, EMC is using non-standard oversized cabinets.    Can you feel your total cost of ownership increasing?
  • EMC speaks to scalability, but storage appears to only be packaged in fixed rack increments with fixed CPU ratios.  From what is shared the only expansion path is buying another rack. That's not helpful to customers.  Pour more money into your TCO budget.
  • Where is EMC getting the hardware? HP has industry standard components and the leading server/drive vendor in the market. EMC has to cobble together the hardware and software into a nice vendor lock-in proprietary bag of tricks.  Cha-ching.
  • HP has a 3rd-party partner program. First vendor to announce an offering is Ocarina Networks. They will provide software data reduction (compression and de-duplication). EMC is going down the proprietary software route.  (More on this in a follow-up post from my colleague Michael Callahan).
  • Is Maui shipping? Nothing in the release or on the web site actually says it is available. Details?

EMC is famous for marketing-hype and spin without details. Does anyone else remember their WideSky initiative?  I can't help but think this is the same old story. I wonder if the relationship between names is any indication to where EMC's head is at?  

We are happy to go toe-to-toe with Atmos (Maui...Hulk...or whatever the name is) and continue to win deals.

Michael Callahan, Chief Technologist from our Enterprise NAS team will add his thoughts about the EMC software in another post later today.

P.S. I noticed a very interesting take on this from Stephen Foskett on his blog - take a look here.  His post got me wondering if the positioning conflict between VMware and Maui is why Diane Greene, the former VMware CEO left EMC.

Where is Maui? A follow-up

I had a couple of previous post asking about EMC's Hulk and Maui and noticed that Chris Mellor, a storage reporter for The Register, has an article asking many of the same questions I asked.  Here's a link to his story:

A couple of observations:

The title of Chris' story says a lot: "Is EMC's Maui another Invista?  Biting off more than it can chew".  I thought about discussing this in my first post but didn't as it wasn't core to the points I wanted to make.  However, since Chris brought it up in his story, I'll mention it here.  EMC has had a history of turning up the hype meter but not delivering on their promises.  As Chris points out, Invista is an example; EMC's claim of being the "ILM company" is another.  Another recent example of this is EMC's hyping of solid state technology.  They know they will be at a huge disadvantage to HP with our desktop to data center capabilities and took an overselling communications approach with solid state.  From their soapbox, they've claimed to be the market leader.  When it's all said and done, I think history will bear out that this is another overcommitment and EMC's hype machine turned up the volume on this.  They have a soapbox as the leading storage-only vendor and customers listen -- it's unfortuate that customers listen to so much of what EMC promises and their hype.  Contrast that with the HP brand - we don't hype, we do our best to not over-promise - we do everything we can to be trustworthy. 

Chris concludes his article by saying "...EMC will have undershot terribly the expectations it has set. Without the infrastructure Maui will be in danger of becoming another Invista (EMC's SAN director-hosted storage virtualisation and management software): a worthy idea oversold and under-delivered".  My response is so what else is new - not much has changed with EMC over the years.

ExDS9100 is real, we have orders, and it will be shipping soon.  That's exactly what we said in May, nothing oversold, no under-delivering.  And imagine Chuck, all this from a "server/storage vendor"!

Where in the world is Maui or Hulk for that matter?

Where in the world is Maui?  If I was talking geography, that's an easy question to answer.  But since we're talking storage, the whereabouts of Maui remains a mystery.   Hulk/ Maui were pre-announced by EMC CEO Joe Tucci at last November's Innovation Day.  Not a lot of details were given but the audience was told that Hulk/ Maui would be shipping by May 2008.  It was a hot topic of discussion by attendees at EMC World but basically all EMC would say publicly is that it would be announced by the summer 2008.  

Well, we've already had snow in Boise and my calendar says summer 2008 has come and gone yet still no sign of Hulk/Maui.  There was an ever so brief sighting on an EMC blog that "demonstrated"  their offering via a video but that post was quickly pulled off the blog with no explanation (see the SearchStorage blog about this here).  I find this interesting given the chest thumping we continually hear from EMC about how server/storage vendors don't make good storage vendors.

Enter the HP StorageWorks 9100 Extreme Data Storage System (ExDS9100).  HP is actively working with customers that are evaluating both ExDS9100 and Hulk/Maui.  I'll let you in on a few details that are coming in from those customers:  

  • HP has not lost an ExDS9100 deal to Hulk/Maui

  • I know of at least a few customers that have said Maui isn't ready for prime time and have stopped their evaluation

  • HP is taking orders on the ExDS9100 and it will be shipping VERY soon

In the next post I'll talk more about the ExDS9100 and why it's a solution that a storage only vendor like EMC would struggle to bring to market. 

P.S:  Chuck, we look forward to your response but not really expecting anything.

See the latest Hulk/Maui rumor de jour from StorageTopics blog: (Advice - don't hold your breath waiting for Hulk & Maui)

Where is EMC's Maui? Did it get whacked?

Last November, the CEO of EMC gave a glimpse of products code named Hulk and Maui.  He told the EMC Innovation Day audience that his company would deliver these to the market by May.  Then came EMC World in late May.  There was little to no public mention of Maui (the software component of a cloud-based storage product) but by some accounts that I heard, the EMC CEO again promised to deliver Maui by this summer.  Well, here we are and it's the end of summer and still no Maui. 

So why am I writing about it today?  Because an EMC employee's blog had a curious disappearance today.  There was a post on the Storagezilla blog site with a link to demonstrate Maui.  The blogger, named Mark Twomey, had a post earlier today complaining a bit about his CEO talking about code names in public but then went on to include a link where one could download a Flash video titled "CloudFellas" -- playing off of the movie title "Good Fellas" -- presumably from some Maui-based storage.  The blog entry has mysteriously disappeared and even the cached version on Google is gone. 

In addition, SearchStorage reported Hulk/Maui aren't what they thought or will it be? Who knows?  Hopefully Mark Twomey hasn't been whacked.  I don't know him personally but compared to some of the other EMC bloggers we've interacted with, he seems like a nice guy.

As for HP, we announced our Extreme Data Storage System in May and committed to deliver it this fall.  You won't find any disappearing web pages or waffling from HP on what we said we'd deliver and when.  Bada Bing. 

I think I'll make some pasta sauce for dinner tonight!


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