Clarity of Vision, Purity of Mission

by Colin Durocher

 

Strategy is about making choices, trade-offs; it’s about deliberately choosing to be different

            - Michael Porter

 

The storage virtualization market is divided into two camps.  In one camp sit those who aim to commoditize the underlying storage arrays and provide all the needed storage intelligence in one package within the virtualization layer.  I call these the Jacks of all Trades virtualization products.  In the other camp sits EMC’s VPLEX.  VPLEX’s raison d’être is very clear and the data services approach it employs is unique in the industry.  In this post, I lay out the VPLEX mission and data services strategy and I explain why they are key to customers’ success with VPLEX.

 

VPLEX Vision:  Providing peace of mind through continuous uptime and the flexibility to move applications (and data) anytime, anywhere

 

VPLEX is an inter-array data services platform.  VPLEX’s mission is to keep applications running, no matter what happens.  It does this by providing availability and mobility-related data services.  These generally break down into 2 core use cases:

  • Eliminate planned downtime:
    • Tech Refresh of virtualized arrays
    • Storage Tiering and Load Balancing
    • Maintenance Avoidance
    • Datacenter relocation
  • Eliminate unplanned downtime:
    • Stretched Clustering for protection against site level disasters
    • Local Mirroring to protect against storage failures

 

What about all the other data services that I need to keep my business running?  A core VPLEX goal is to “DO NO HARM” to the storage environment. VPLEX aims to add the above capabilities while not subtracting any existing data-path capabilities.  As a result, VPLEX has adopted a strategy of encapsulating storage and transparently leveraging the existing data services on the underlying arrays.  This provides for investment protection in cases where those data services are bought and paid for, and it provides new VPLEX customers with the capability to select their storage platforms based on their unique capabilities and fitness to the task at hand.  VPLEX provides all the needed data services in the solution, rather than in the product.

 

It is, of course, no coincidence that EMC would employ the pass-through strategy for its virtualization platform as its storage arrays (ie VMAX3) have best-in-class data services. Why would we seek to replace those?  Making use of native array data services allows VPLEX to focus efforts on the core product value proposition – Continuous Availability. Which is why VPLEX is able to offer industry-leading availability for mission critical applications.  This is why customers purchase VPLEX and as a result VPLEX adoption and market share both continue to grow.  [UPDATE: My colleague Parasar documents some customer examples in this recent blog.]

 

Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.

            - Steve Jobs

 

Our competition have all chosen a strategy of replacing the functionality of virtualized arrays with their own data services implementations.  While this can add value in older environments and can certainly simplify licensing in heavily heterogeneous environments, it often renders otherwise superior data services on the arrays completely unusable.  Not surprisingly, they love to setup feature-by-feature comparisons to VPLEX on its own.  Since VPLEX does not (by itself) offer space efficiency or copy services functionality, these comparisons predictably end up very one-sided.  But in the age of converged infrastructure and outcome-minded customers, it is more useful to compare solutions.  In these comparisons, the EMC solution leads the industry by layering best-of-breed availability (VPLEX) over best-of-breed data services from arrays that are fit-for-purpose.  And that is how EMC and, more importantly, customers win.

 

In Part II of this post, I delve into concrete examples why customers are better served with offloaded array-based data services.  Hint:

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About Colin Durocher...

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Colin Durocher is a Consultant Product Manager with EMC and has spent over 10 years working on the VPLEX product in a variety of roles within Engineering and Product Management. He currently owns coordination with storage array partners, as well as pushing VPLEX performance and scale to meet increasing customer requirements. He’s also defining future VPLEX product strategy, direction, and innovation.

Outside of work, Colin enjoys racquet sports, brewing beer, camping, and spending time with his wife and two children in Montreal, Canada.