I spoke with EMC President & COO Pat Gelsinger about the VFCache product launch announcement, which you can watch and ask questions about here, discussing the new products themselves, how EMC is doing in specific and it’s industry placement in general.
Take a look.
VFCache. Cutting through the noise what’s the bottom line?
At its heart VFCache extends the value of the storage array directly into the server for ultimate application performance. It’s storage caching intelligence moved closer to the CPU.
For EMC arrays only?
While we’ll have deep integration in unique areas such as Fully Automated Storage Tiering (FAST) and systems management, VFCache read caching will be general purpose and work across multiple storage array providers in a Storage Area Network.
So customers could if they choose use VFCache in front of non-EMC storage? Interesting. To focus on ‘Split card’ functionality, where server DAS & SAN workloads can be accelerated at the same time, with larger capacity cards coming to market do we envision EMC Direct Attached Storage only deployments going forward?
Split card functionality is a great way for customers to use VFCache in both storage worlds, yes. Caching for extra performance with the protection offered by arrays for mission critical information and DAS for more ephemeral data sets such as temp files, swap and indices. We will provide larger capacity cards over time and the DAS use cases will naturally expand as a result.
What next for VFCache?
Even deeper FAST integration. We’ve done a lot of work in the field of I/O hints and how we can make the array and all the server caches themselves even more efficient. If you have VFCache in a server you could optimise array cache for those which do not and that has a knock on effect on things like promotion and demotion statistics in data placement.
All of that ties in with the next VFCache focus area, Distributed Cache Coherency. DCC maintains cache coherency between systems using VFCache allowing for the construction of Active/Active clusters or support scale out computing.
Those are two near term additions from a bunch we have coming next for VFCache.
Now Project Thunder..
A new product from EMC in a segment we’ve never been in. Server Networked Flash.
InfiniBand or Ethernet connectivity to Thunder Appliances where you scale up inside Thunder and scale out with additional Thunder Appliances. This is a server centric design providing Terabytes of Flash, tens of Gigabytes per second of bandwidth in support of millions IOPS with incredibly low latency at high loads. And there’s VFCache integration, we’re using the low latency RDMA data path assets developed for Project Lightning in Thunder.
You’re introducing Project Thunder at the VFCache launch will we see more at EMC World?
We’re considering that.
EMC innovation. Thunder on its way, VFCache today in 2012, VNXe & VMAXe in 2011, VMAX in 2009 and Atmos in 2008. What’s the innovation strategy going forward?
The strategy is an acceleration of the pace of organic innovation. We want to combine the best of breed inorganic innovation with best of breed organic innovation. The result will be unparalleled innovation, an acceleration of new product deliveries and an ever increasing gap between EMC and the rest of the industry in the areas of cloud, big data and security.
Is innovation something you can measure and set goals against?
There are some metrics I find helpful, percentage of R&D, number of patents and their impact and percentage of revenue from new products. However, while these are helpful, less tangible items like quality of talent, disruptive product development and university relationships are better leading indicators of a company’s innovation capability.
Between VMware, revenue leadership in Backup & Recovery from BRS and analytics from Greenplum is EMC still a storage company?
Going forward EMC wants to be the most disruptive data centre infrastructure company in our industry. While today storage is our centre and our heritage, we’ve just shipped a new storage offering with VFCache and announced another with Thunder, increasingly virtualization, security, management and analytics will complement that foundation to give us a broad data centre footprint.
EMC Ventures, which you run, has invested a significant amount of money into start ups of various types. It’s a lot of money. Where do you see the downstream benefit of that?
Ventures is used for strategic investments into companies which we believe are or could be critical areas to our strategy going forward. It allows us to develop ecosystem visibility which will help advance our strategy and we expect solid financial returns from those investments.
Absolutely, some of them could be acquisitions for us. And you’re learning not to ask which ones, which is progress.
Thanks for that. Looking back at 2011 how did your team do?
We did well. There’s always room for improvement but our product leadership was seen as a key component of our great performance in 2011. We expect that to increase in 2012. For the first time ever, our mid-range products are seen as the industry leaders, a bulging trophy cabinet of industry & customer awards for that team in 2011, and we’re now competing in the low end. We’re also seen as the early leader in the big data market.
None of this was the case this time in 2011.
To you what does the competitive field look like?
In some ways, no real change from the usual. NetApp, Hitachi, Dell, HP and so on but we do see two new areas of threat in storage. One is Huawei, the other is the bevy of Flash startups. We’ve spent time looking at them both. Beyond those we see that to be the leader in the data centre market we will be competing with bigger and broader IT players in the future.
What do you consider to be the interesting trends to follow in 2012?
Cloud enabling the broad transition to IT as a service. Big Data is at a nascent stage and the impact it’s going to have on IT going forward will be dramatic. These will be what people talk about through 2012 in our industry.
You’ve run the marathons do you have a personal fitness, intellectual or artistic goal for 2012?
I’m running the Boston Marathon again with my oldest son, we’ve been talking about that a lot and I plan on doing a Century Ride with my second son. Since I need a good sit down after the training required for those I’ve been rounding out my skills studying Corporate Finance.
Being an Engineer and with all my additional technical training it was an area I never spent any time on.
Read any good books recently?
On my last vacation I read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers. It's a great read and I’m pondering how the ideas can be applied more directly to EMC. I also read Escape Velocity by Geoffrey Moore, I always enjoy his work.
I’ll see you at EMC World.