EMC World 2016 – EMC’s All-Flash Unity

EMC chose their annual user conference, EMC World 2016 as EMC’s coming out party for a new storage offering: Unity. While all the marketing around Unity focuses on an $18,000 all-flash configuration it is a hybrid solution available in hard drive configurations for around $10,000. It seems that EMC is harnessing all of its accumulated experience in storage software to create a storage system that is the perfect balance of simplicity and power.

A New Storage Product

The first impression is that Unity is a new storage product within the vast storage portfolio. This is not an upgrade to VNX or a downgrade to VMAX. While EMC leveraged its experience, it does seem like Unity’s start came from a blank slate. EMC is traditionally not afraid of cannibalizing its own products and that philosophy is on clear display with Unity. While no official statement came from EMC, it is hard to imagine new primary storage opportunities being anything other than Unity for the mid-range and XtremIO in the Enterprise.

Clean Interface, NO Java

The management GUI is the first major sign of something new. It is written in pure HTML5. It does not require Java. The session I sat in actually applauded when “no Java” appeared on the screen. The interface is clean and it seems that administrators will be able to get most tasks done with a minimal amount of mouse clicks. The management GUI also builds support right into it, including an online chat window.

Feature Rich

For the price point you might assume that EMC cut features. That is not the case. It is feature rich, including capabilities like tiering and caching, snapshots, replication and Quality of Service (QoS). The only features missing are data efficiency capabilities like deduplication and compression. While the competition will make some valid points about the lack of them, as the price of flash continues to decline, the need for those features becomes less critical. And EMC indicated that compression, at least, will be in the product before the end of the year.

StorageSwiss Take

Unity is a fascinating product. My assumption that EMC would back away from entry level / mid-range storage with the impending Dell acquisition was wrong. Instead EMC is doubling down, creating a product that not only will give the competition fits, it will give its own product line a run for the money.

Twelve years ago George Crump founded Storage Switzerland with one simple goal; to educate IT professionals about all aspects of data center storage. He is the primary contributor to Storage Switzerland and is a heavily sought after public speaker. With over 25 years of experience designing storage solutions for data centers across the US, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS and SAN, Virtualization, Cloud and Enterprise Flash. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland he was CTO at one of the nation's largest storage integrators where he was in charge of technology testing, integration and product selection.

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