XtremIO: Truly Xciting or Just As Xpected?

Yesterday’s official launch and declaration of General Availability for EMC’s XtremIO purpose-built all-flash array was notable in a number of ways….few of them, frankly, much to do with the product. The furor of comments and range of opinions was up there with the release of a Miley Cyrus video….and pop culture was indeed woven into the launch event itself, with a band of rent-a-[presumably EMC]-crowd enthusiasts whooping and hollering between the various presentations. I loved the ‘Top Gear’ style studio and the multiple presentation styles, places and media….but please lose the Xcruciating crowd….unless of course, this was really Oprah or Ellen and their unadulterated enthusiasm was because they were all getting to take an XtremIO home!? [It would make a perfect Xmas gift! – sorry, couldn’t resist!]

By now (actually by months ago, since this has hardly been a closely guarded product secret), you either know all about the product, or can find out what it is from a thousand sources and read about why it’s apparently not as good as all that from a thousand more competitive ones. So, let me cover the product detail really succinctly: XtremIO is a highly capable, scale-out, all flash storage array that focuses on consistent very-high performance and requires very little management. It utilizes metadata, new data protection algorithms and deduplication to intelligently manage the balanced placement of an optimized amount of data across its multi-controller managed ‘X-Bricks.’ OK? It is, on balance, a very sound product offering; like any product it has its plus points and its missing elements.

But, as mentioned, the product itself isn’t the big story here. It is (to refer to my blog title) pretty much as Xpected. The truly Xciting – and intriguing- part is what this means for EMC, its competition, and for the user community:

  • EMC had to Xecute: EMC had to do something in this arena – traditional competitors (such as NetApp, HP, HDS, Dell, Oracle, etc.) and newer entrants alike (such as Violin, Pure, Kaminario, and so on) have been selling and making waves for some time now. [yes, I know very well that this is not an exhaustive list of the competition; but it’s both some of the biggest and some of those that (surprise, surprise!) also had flash news this week!]. EMC now has an Xtremely viable offering – indeed it claims 10PB of effective deduped capacity sold in its 9 month ‘Directed Availability’ phase – as a part of its overall portfolio. The portfolio is both a definite strength (“no need to go anywhere else, Mr Customer”) and a potential weakness (“which product should I sell?” asks the saleslady).
  • Competitors must Xplain: You really wouldn’t expect the competition to welcome XtremIo with open arms….but they should, since EMC has just further ‘blessed’ a still-relatively-nascent market. The competition as a whole had a convulsion of commentary yesterday, as well as before and since. Let me summarize it for you: EMC says Xpect More – competitors said yes, you should indeed expect more! However, irrespective of what type of flash implementation a vendor has – from server-based to all-flash to array-based SSDs - the level of flash conversation will only increase from here. The competition, including EMC in the mix, is going to have to explain its differentiation and value ever more….but the announcement will mean that there will also be more opportunities so to do.
  • Users should Xamine: Users – if they had not realized it already – can see that flash is here to stay. More competition invariably means better deals and better functionalities as vendors strive for market share and one-upmanship. Of course there was already plenty of Xaggeration in this space so caveat-emptor reigns supreme: the best advice (always, and nowhere more than here) is to start by figuring what you want to achieve….and then keep that in mind throughout the buying process. Be very cognizant of why you are considering flash and what you want it to deliver for you; I should add that I don’t think there’s an IT environment that cannot benefit from some amount of flash, but whether it is an all-flash array or a hybrid or maybe just a card/SSD is – and will remain - a function of needs, expectations and budgets.

I don’t mean to make light of the announcement – despite my Xcessive X-words. This is a big deal for EMC, its competitors, and users. As I said in a press interview when asked what the ‘secret sauce’ is here, the answer – and it’s barely a secret – is that this is from EMC. If XtremIO were still independent we would be having a very different level, and style, of debate. And, yes, it would have been far more about the product. Instead, what we have is a market play where equal amounts of enthusiasm and care are needed by EMC, other vendors, and prospective users alike. Xcellent!

Topics: Storage IT Infrastructure