Storage hardware vendors like to refer to themselves as software companies. While it is true that most of them write storage software that runs on off-the-shelf hardware, most of them require that you buy their hardware to get their storage software. EMC, one of the first to claim to be a software, has evolved into a real software company. Other than the obvious software properties, like Networker or Vipr, an increasing percentage of its storage solutions are available as software.
Isilon is EMC’s scale-out NAS solution that it acquired a few years ago. While the Isilon operating environment (OneFS) has always been software, that software has always been tightly coupled with storage servers acting as nodes within the Isilon storage cluster. IsilonSD Edge is a dramatic move away from that approach. It is a software only version of OneFS designed to run on commodity servers. It’s designed to extend the “DataLake” to edge locations. It supports 36TB of capacity and provides adequate performance for these remote/branch offices.
Data Domain Virtual Edition
Data Domain is also a software solution that always has been tightly coupled with hardware. That combination leads it to be the market-leading purpose built disk backup appliance. But even its entry level solutions are not “entry” enough for some remote offices. Virtual Edition is a software only version of the Data Domain technology that is designed to run on your hardware.
Most surprisingly, at least to me, is the availability of Utility, EMC’s newest shining star, as a software only version. The Unity operating environment can run as a virtual machine providing an even more entry level version of this entry level product. While performance will not be as good, all the capabilities of Unity are available in the virtual version. The virtual version can even be a replication target. A production Unity system can sit in the data center and replicate to a virtual version at a DR site.
These are just three examples of EMC’s move to a more software-only future. Most of EMC’s software solutions are limited in terms of capacity and obviously performance. But they are ideal for remote offices or for customers who want to try the product out prior to making a purchase. And potentially be a DR target for a production system. Interestingly, I don’t believe these software versions will negatively impact EMC’s hardware business. Companies that would use these software products in production are not EMC’s target market, plus they might grow into an EMC solution in the future.