EMC revamps its all-flash XtremIO storage arrays

Storage giant EMC hopes software 4.0 update and capacity upgrades will help it maintain its lead in the all-flash storage array market

EMC is rolling out a free software upgrade to users of its XtremIO arrays, as it seeks to extend its lead in the all-flash storage market.

EMC announced the 4.0 upgrade at EMC World in Las Vegas, dubbing it “The Beast”. The upgrade enables users to consolidate and automate more workloads, and – in turn – enhance the performance of the underlying hardware.

The software update will pave the way for XtremIO users to group together more systems, so they can handle a higher number of workloads.

For those requiring more capacity, the company is rolling out 40TB X-Bricks – the building blocks of XtremIO arrays – that are double the size of what was previously available. 

Both the software upgrade and the 40TB X-bricks will be available to order from the next quarter.

The first all-flash product released under the XtremIO brand made its debut around 18 months ago. In November 2014, Analyst IDC crowned it the leader of the all-flash storage array.

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Market position justifies XtremIO buy

A separate piece of research from analyst house Gartner credited it as positioning EMC as the top-performing supplier in the solid-state storage market with an 11% lead over its nearest competitor.

Acknowledging this trend in the opening keynote, David Goulden, CEO of EMC’s Information Infrastructure business, said: “XtremIO is the clear market leader by a long, long way.

“There is a good reason for this because, in the all-flash marketplace, architecture matters and XtremIO is uniquely scale-out and all those services are in line all the time,” he said.

In a follow-on Q&A session later in the day, Jeremy Burton, president of products and marketing at EMC, said the success of XtremIO had silenced the skeptics who criticised its decision to buy the firm in May 2012.

“The little startup will always say they’re going after the big guy because they’re big and slow, and they can’t catch us. At least that’s what I’ve heard all the guys in the all-flash array space say two to three years ago,” said Burton.

“They’re not crowing as loudly these days and that’s because we brought our scale to bear on a market we know very well.”

Customer feedback

Also at the event, New York-based health insurance provider EmblemHealth told attendees about how it had used XtremIO to roll out a virtual desktop infrastructure platform to staff in the wake of Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

The storm knocked out power to much of New York City, including the firm’s datacentre, while its backup location in New Jersey was affected by flooding.

To ensure the company could get up and running again, it adopted virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) to ensure its staff could get back to work, and needed an all-flash storage system to support its plans.

The company evaluated a number of competing systems, said Eric Tomasello, director of infrastructure and operations at EmblemHealth, but EMC’s technology won the day.

“We had a VDI environment already, but it was really tiny,” he said. It also required that its employee’s desktop PCs were powered up to work, which was impossible because of the storm.

“So we decided to go with XtremIO to run our VDI environment, which – for us – solved our issue in a very short amount of time,” he said.

It also helped to eradicate costs in other areas of its business too, Tomasello added: “Being a health insurance company, people call up constantly to check the progress of their claims.

“Although we were able to recover quite quickly, from an outsider point of view, it cost us a significant amount of money because we moved our callcentre to Oklahoma city and paid an outside vendor to take those calls for us. So we eliminated that cost too.”

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