The April 14 announcement of the new EMC V-Max storage array raises what I have long-held is the reckless abuse of technology terms to win over customer (and media) attention. In the press release, I note that ‘virtual’ appeared 36 times. I am trying to remember what my English teacher in elementary grade told me about the repetitive use of words. I guess not enough marketers are being shot for single-minded ignorance of English grammar rules. Anyway back to the story at hand.

Practically every major storage, server and system vendor announcement in the last 18 months have “virtualization” as a central message. Everyone is riding on the bandwagon of “do more with less”. The technical promise is optimization or better utilization. The financial promise is less money.

The problem is too much marketing hype is creating confusion.

The technical definition of virtualization is the abstraction of compute resources. Wikipedia lists six different types of virtualization depending on what the “resource” is. The layman’s definition of virtualization doesn’t really exists. It depends on what the base technology is. If you are saying, it’s about the operating system, then virtualization means running many operating systems (for example Windows) on a single physical hardware. If you think applications, it is running many different applications on the same OS. If it’s data storage, it is having access to data no matter where it is physically stored.

Confused? I know I am!

Anyway, EMC – arguably the dominant data storage vendor today (for now) – launched their latest storage array on April 14 (US time) with virtualization almost literally as the adjacent label to the product. The new Symmetrix V-Max is a humongous array that promises pooling, migration, management, functinality and asset re-use all from one single product.

EMC used the marketing term “virtual data center of the future” and I guess from what you can read, the V-Max is coincidentally being positioned as the storage engine for the cloud (well, ok not in those same words). If you consider that this humongosaurus of a machine can scale up to 3 Petabytes, then its a really massive array. This is not your Daddy’s storage array. This monster is targeted at very large enterprises with petabytes of data to store.

What’s the catch? Well, said promises are only available on the new product – the V-Max. If you have an existing HP, IBM, NetApp, Sun, DotHill, Dell, and every other Tom, Dick and Harry storage hardware vendor out there, including EMC, this may not be the product for you, unless you are willing to throw away all of your existing storage arrays in favor of the V-Max. So from an investment point of view, CIOs will have a fun time explaining this to their CFOs why it makes sense to throw away existing investments.

Its always interesting to read what industry observers have to say about this.

Dave Raffo, News Director for SearchStorage and a long-time observer, notes that “there is nothing new in the V-Max virtualization story. The V-Max is the new high-end storage for EMC”. Click here.

Hu Yoshida, CTO at Hitachi Data Systems, referred to the V-Max as just another monolithic storage system but the caveat that it is as locked in as any vendor lock-in gets. Click here.

Dave Simpson, editor-in-chief of InfoStor, tips his nod to EMC and predicts its going to be another winner for the vendor. Click here.

Stephen Foskett says the V-Max is neither midrange nor monolithic, rather calling it a hybrid of the two. He dispells Yoshida’s interpretation of the V-Max as a monolith, rather referring to the new product as continuing the legacy of the DMX (and HDS USP) as arrays that start small and scale up. He commends the V-Max as the next generation array offering truly integrated system from independent modules. Click here.

InfoStor’s Kevin Komiega believes as I do that the V-Max is designed for the cloud. Click here.

Note that I didn’t include any of the traditional EMC bloggers here because you can’t fault them for not singing praises for their employer’s new machine. So why waste your eyeballs.

I would have wanted to include Tony Asaro here but these days he is a hired gun for HDS so in fairness to the EMC bloggers, I read what he had to say but opted not to include him here.

If I have to sum it up, this is a new product targeted at the very high end of enterprise wallets. Lots of promises but nothing to open your jaw about. But as with all things new it will take time for EMC to come up with new software to complement or take advantage of what the hardware has to offer. Coincidentally, VMware – an EMC company – will be launching some new next week – still around virtualization. So stay tuned.

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