Update: Looks like we’ll be seeing XtremIO again!  (link)

It’s over a year since I did a full Tech Field Day event.  Where does the time go?  Next week I’m attending Storage Field Day 14, based in the Silicon Valley area.  Compared to most events, this one looks (at first glance) relatively quiet, with only three vendors.  However, Dell EMC is taking much of the time allotted to the presentations, with representation from the High-End, Data Protection, and Midrange teams.  So what does that mean in terms of the conversation?

High-End Systems

I’m not sure if “High-End” is an actual team or department.  I assume this definition covers storage platforms that are delivered for the Enterprise.  This means VMAX, XtremIO, Isilon, ECS, and ScaleIO.  Over the years I’ve configured many VMAX and older systems.  In their time, the Symmetrix family were excellent platforms, made better by the software and support that came with them.  Although DMX (then VMAX) could be said to have pioneered the modern use of flash in enterprise arrays, the then EMC took the direction of acquiring XtremIO as their all-flash platform of choice.


I was negative in the early days to XtremIO, because the technology was being sold under claims that were clearly not right.  Who can forget the “non-disruptive” claim that turned out to be not only disruptive but destructive?  Perhaps the product was too early; maybe EMC was too focused on grabbing much of the noise and customers for all-flash before everyone else moved in.  It’s possible customers wanted the VMAX level of mature features.  We can all debate the merits, right or wrong.  However, since then, EMC has decided that VMAX should be all-flash and extended that to all the hardware platforms.


I always believed that EMC was positioning ScaleIO to replace the physical block-based storage platforms as customers moved to a software-defined delivery model.  For what appears to be a good product, I don’t think take-up of ScaleIO is what Dell EMC would have liked it to be.  Part of the problem here is transitioning customers used to buying hardware into a software model.  Hence we see ScaleIO Ready Nodes and VxRack systems based on ScaleIO.

So now we have an interesting dilemma.  To get customer adoption for software-defined, we have to package as a hardware product. That defeats some of the SDS benefits of commodity hardware and BYOS (bring your own server).  It also makes it difficult to fully exploit the benefits from a customer perspective.


In the mid-range category, there are platforms from the Dell line (SC series, PS series) and EMC Unity/VNX.  Dell EMC has four offerings in this space, much of which must overlap.  I understand that EMC has a wide customer base, so transitioning from one platform to another is hard for customers.  But then, so is maintaining four R&D teams.  Surely there has to be some simplification in this market space?

Data Protection

Look outside of product appliances and Dell EMC has solutions like VPLEX, RecoverPoint, Data Domain, Data Protection Suite and the Integrated Data Protection Appliances.  Again there is a wide choice for customers, with VPLEX and RecoverPoint delivering more disaster recovery features, while the remainder of the portfolio addresses application protection and recovery.  Again, I’m not sure here on the positioning Dell EMC is taking.  What are the differentiating points between Avamar, Networker and the IDPA options?  While I know historically where these software and hardware offerings sit, I’m not sure how the new Dell portfolio is being marketed to customers.

The Architect’s View

Dell EMC has a diverse portfolio of offerings.  Sometimes this is a curse rather than a blessing.  Customers need clarity on how product lines will merge and the longevity of their chosen strategy.  I’m hoping we see more on how Dell EMC is bringing the portfolio together.  For example, how will the mid-range products be streamlined?

Looking at what’s been presented in the past, XtremIO, VIPR, ScaleIO, Unity and Isilon have all been discussed by Dell EMC or EMC.  Dell presented on DSS, while Compellent presented at an early event.  I couldn’t find much specifically relating to data protection or VMAX.  So, will EMC follow precedent or pick something new?  With so many things to talk about, the choice is endless!

Further Reading

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Written by Chris Evans

With 30+ years in IT, Chris has worked on everything from mainframe to open platforms, Windows and more. During that time, he has focused on storage, developed software and even co-founded a music company in the late 1990s. These days it's all about analysis, advice and consultancy.