EMC looks to the clouds with TwinStrata and new VMax3 array

The TwinStrata acquisition could help put the latest VMax release at the center of hybrid Clouds

EMC's TwinStrata acquisition is just part of a bigger move to keep its venerable VMax storage platform up to date with large enterprises as they enter the Cloud era.

TwinStrata, which EMC is acquiring for an undisclosed sum, makes software to move data from in-house storage to public Clouds. EMC plans to make that capability part of the VMax3, a new generation of the large-scale VMax storage family that was also announced on Tuesday at the company's Redefine Possible event in London.

While promising to help enterprises shift backups or archives to public Clouds with TwinStrata, EMC has also architected the VMax3 series as an engine for internal data services and hybrid Clouds. By making an in-house storage array into a platform for Cloud services, the company hopes to help IT departments retain or regain control of their data while offering workgroups a way to use storage that's much like what they've found in flexible public Cloud services.

EMC is tackling Cloud storage from multiple angles. In May it announced the Elastic Cloud Storage Appliance, a large-scale appliance built around low-cost spinning disks. It's intended as cheap, long-term storage that can be used by cloud service providers or let enterprises build their own Cloud, an alternative that EMC says can be cheaper than using public Clouds.

Big enterprise storage vendors such as EMC long dismissed public Clouds and pushed private clouds as an alternative, said 451 Research analyst Simon Robinson. All this recent activity reflects EMC acknowledging that enterprises are embracing Clouds, and not just private ones, he said.

"It clearly is happening," based on 451's findings, Robinson said. "EMC sees that as well."

The VMax3 line is the latest set of products in a series of high-end hybrid flash-and-disk arrays that was introduced out of EMC's Symmetrix line in 2009.

The three VMax3 arrays are equipped with a converged storage hypervisor and OS called Hypermax OS that can operate services such as data protection, data mobility and Cloud access right on the array, EMC says. The VMax3 systems also come with a software architecture, Dynamic Virtual Matrix, for allocating an array's built-in processing power to different tasks based on the demands of applications.

Enterprises can consolidate storage capacity for many applications on a VMax3 array, allocating as many as 384 processing cores on demand to meet the needs of each application. The systems can scale up to tens of thousands of virtual machines while maintaining predictable service levels, EMC says. The company claims greater than 99.9999 percent availability for all its VMax systems.

By consolidating storage services in the array and allowing flexible use of resources, Hypermax and Dynamic Virtual Matrix help cut total cost of ownership by as much as 50 percent in the new systems, EMC says. Performance also increases by as much as three times.

The VMax3 line is set to ship in the third quarter with Hypermax, with other capabilities coming in the future. EMC said it will give more details on TwinStrata integration at a later date.

The company will also offer ProtectPoint, a feature for directly backing up data from a VMax3 to an EMC Data Domain system. It will be available in the fourth quarter for an additional fee.

ProtectPoint can make backups as much as 10 times faster by eliminating the need for a traditional backup infrastructure, according to EMC. For example, enterprises won't need to use a backup server or run their backup jobs through the app server, said Dave Simpson, a data protection analyst at 451 Research. The downside to ProtectPoint, for now, is that it only works with VMax, Data Domain and Oracle, Simpson said.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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