One of the challenges with enterprise storage, is well, it usually takes an enterprise full of people, or with some vendors a healthy PS budget, to install, upgrade and maintain them. With some (most?) enterprises trending towards younger, cheaper staff who are asked to be jacks of many trades and masters of none, hardware vendors have responded by simplifying that ownership process. Starting around the same time as the Compaq Proliant SmartStart CD and continuing through the recent trend of consolidated GUI management tools, the amount of time and expertise needed to manage what was once incredibly complex hardware systems continues to decrease.
The challenge has been that most of the simplification has been along a single vector: hardware management tools simply haven't been capable of being aware of either other hardware that sits in parallel with it or the software and end users that sit on top of it. With the incredible adoption rate of VMware, and with its dependence on enterprise-class hardware, particularly storage, the industry has seen that lack of cross-vendor/platform integration ease. Storage vendors fight over who has more points of integration, and storage decisions are made taking those kinds of features into account. Higher level integration platforms like the EMC Ionix Unified Infrastructure Manager have even started to integrate across disparate hardware platforms, unifying the management of compute, network and storage resources. This new world of simplification and cross-platform integration will be the tip of the spear going forward, and companies who are unwilling or unable to make it a core part of their offering will be left behind.
With today's announcement around, and release of, the VNX and VNXe arrays, EMC has embraced this principal in spades. In addition to (finally) collapsing the CX and NS product lines they have taken the simplification theme to new heights. Look at the screenshots if you don't believe me. Recommended practices built into the platform (not "best" practices, right Scott?), application awareness handling details that could otherwise get you in trouble, active-active controllers, Unisphere management, the list goes on. Get in trouble or have a question? Yes, that's a link in the management GUI directly to either support or the user forums. The effect is that the operator can focus on the business, the end users and the applications without needing 50 years of experience to keep the storage running. Integration with VMware? Integration with the rest of the EMC portfolio? Got it and got it. User replaceable modules and upgrades? Check. Simple to understand software options? Yep, got that too.
There's a reason that EMC owns both the enterprise storage market as well as the market for storage used for VMware environments. Part of that reason is because customers are demanding more integration, more simplification and more value, and they want those things not just in their storage but in the whole stack. Hypervisor, storage, backup, replication, archive, security, management and compliance all play into the total solution, and companies who can't tell the whole story are going to continue to be relegated to second tier status.
Welcome to the new world, where you can have a powerful, complete and integrated solution and still keep it simple. Now that we are here, the next question is how it impacts the Service Provider vertical, and I'll start to tackle that in the next few posts.