Storage Soup

Apr 24 2008   10:40AM GMT

EMC, IBM, thin provisioning and wild animals

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

My daily rounds of the storage industry web this morning brought me to The Storage Anarchist, a blog by an EMCer that I often find interesting. As it turns out, one of my articles was in his sights yesterday following EMC’s earnings call.

Most of the reaction to the first-quarter earnings announcement was rather more negative than I think EMC would like, considering they posted record revenues. All the financial analysts on the call, wild eyed from the fog of battle out in the market as the economy sinks further into doldrums, seemed not to believe that EMC’s forecasts for the year were really remaining unchanged. And they did ask plenty of pointed questions.

TSA’s description is rather more dramatic: “Several of the participating financial analysts inquired about the potential impact that the newly-delivered virtual provisioning for Symmetrix might have on future capacity demands. From the tone of the questions, you could easily imagine a pride of lions circling their prey.”

But I have to say the next sentence surprised me. “And sure enough, by noon Beth Pariseau had her coverage posted on SearchStorage, under the headline EMC’s Tucci: Thin provisioning mandatory but overrated.”

After that there’s some discussion of a Byte and Switch article and there’s no further discussion of my article, so I’m still not precisely sure why it was brought up. A little ways down in the post, though, there’s this reference to a bear that recently killed its trainer that I can’t help but wonder about:

And all I have to say about the bear is: remember, these are wild animals, and they’re driven by instinct and not logic or trust.

Any resemblance between wild animals and industry experts is purely coincidental!

Again, it’s hard to tell exactly where that comment was directed, but I think he compared Mary Jander, Wall Street analysts and me to wild animals? That would certainly be a first for me! :)

So here’s the perspective from the other side of the coin (or cage, as it were). When the CEO of a major storage company explains to the folks on Wall Street exactly how his company is going to continue to make money on a feature billed by many in the industry as a way to not give vendors like EMC quite so much money in the long run, I think it’s probably important for users to hear that perspective on the technology. I think it’s also probably important for users to have a realistic sense of the benefits of a given technology, one they’re not getting from most vendor marketing. That’s the logic and trust I care about.

Meanwhile, TSA saves most of his scantily-veiled critiques for IBM, though of course he never names names. This in turn prompted IBM blogger Barry Whyte to respond with…the news that IBM is planning thin provisioning for SVC. IBM is giving thin provisioning the title, “Space Efficient Volumes/Vdisks (SEV).” 

So lets think about this, if for example you had an appliance that could front all storage types, provide you with online data migration between said storage types, let you manage copy services across them all, soon provide Space Efficient characteristics, natively support any SATA or flash device you decided you wanted, provide many thousands of disks behind a single management interface and integrate with all the ‘Israeli’ products you could imagine… why would you care that just one of your products that has its largest footprint as a Mainframe box didn’t have all of those features, when according to Mr Burke, everything the Mainframe does well it does itself, and by his own admission won’t need or use features like Thin Provisioning.

Interesting. But what’s odd there is that the mainframe box IBM sells is the DS8000, and last I heard, IBM’s planning thin provisioning for that too. Or maybe it will be getting thin provisioning by way of SVC?

10  Comments on this Post

 
There was an error processing your information. Please try again later.
Thanks. We'll let you know when a new response is added.
Send me notifications when other members comment.

REGISTER or login:

Forgot Password?
By submitting you agree to receive email from TechTarget and its partners. If you reside outside of the United States, you consent to having your personal data transferred to and processed in the United States. Privacy
  • Beth Pariseau
    Nah - that "industry experts" thing wasn't aimed at anyone you listed. Actually, 'twas nothing more than a little jab at the bears in this market. I really like your work, and it wasn't my intent to offend...my apologies if I did. But I'm not sure where you heard IBM say that they were doing thin provisioning for the DS8000, though. Clod Berrara was quoted as not dismissing the idea, but I haven't seen anything near as concrete as what BarryW said about SVC and "space efficient volumes." Maybe I missed it.
    0 pointsBadges:
    report
  • Beth Pariseau
    Thanks for your comment, appreciate the clarification. My article on the DS8000 thing was linked on the word "heard" above, but it prob. got lost with that short an anchor text: http://searchstorage.techtarget.com/news/article/0,289142,sid5_gci1302575,00.html
    0 pointsBadges:
    report
  • Beth Pariseau
    Yep - sorry, I indeed missed the link. That was the article that I had fun with regarding IBM's insistance that Flash was unnecessary and that they planned on pushing tape instead (in this post http://thestorageanarchist.typepad.com/weblog/2008/02/0068-rotflmao.html ). Still, I don't think IBM has ever actually said that they'd be delivering thin provisioning on the DS8000. Andy said only that "this is the year we need it." And even Clod Barerra didn't actually say it was actually coming on the DS8000 - what he said was that it was a "good expectation" (as I discussed here: http://thestorageanarchist.typepad.com/weblog/2008/04/0076-oops-ibm-d.html ) Somehow I'm starting to think that IBM is being very careful with its choice of words, possibly because they plan on delivering thin provisioning on a new hardware platform instead of on the DS8000 (the rumored DS10000?). If so, that would put them in the same camp as Hitachi, forcing customers into a hardware upgrade to get new features - as compared to the Symmetrix Virtual Provisioning, which is avaialble for both DMX-4 AND the prior-generation installed base of DMX-3 arrays. But at least now we know that the SVC is going to offer thin provisioning. Wonder if it'll be before, or after, it is available on the DS series...
    0 pointsBadges:
    report
  • Beth Pariseau
    "When the CEO of a major storage company explains to the folks on Wall Street exactly how his company is going to continue to make money on a feature billed by many in the industry as a way to not give vendors like EMC quite so much money in the long run, I think it’s probably important for users to hear that perspective on the technology." You've been around long enough to know that EMC will not lose a dime. 1. they will charge (and charge a lot) for their Thin Provisioning 2. they don't have the architecture in the CX family to allow the utilization rates to climb from 50% (Tucci's number) to 85% (again, Tucci's number). The reason they are at 50% utilization (closer to 40%) is because they run out of performance. TP does not add performance; in fact, it encourages over-subscribing the drives and placing more data on them than would normally be done. If an application needs the performance that 60 15K FC drives delivers but only 30% of that capacity, you can't buy 30 drives and use TP to get 85% utilization. The performance just won't be there. (my numbers may not add up there... I'm winging it here...). I think Tucci is saying that it won't impact EMCs bottom line because they will offer it but they won't promote it. It will allow them to "check the box" when companies evaluate their products (like NQM). Also, Tucci knows that if people implement TP incorrectly (very easy to do) they will be forced to buy more disks from EMC to get the performance you need. I do think that when EMC finally announces TP it will put a nail in 3Par's coffin. TP is about the only thing 3Par has that's relatively unique.
    0 pointsBadges:
    report
  • Beth Pariseau
    How's it going to nail 3PAR's coffin if, as you say, the performance won't allow for the higher utilization? Just brand recognition?
    0 pointsBadges:
    report
  • Beth Pariseau
    3PAR's claim to fame was TP. It was a feature that they had and "nobody" else had. Now that EMC has it and NetApp is finally talking about it, 3PAR has lost their one competitive advantage.
    0 pointsBadges:
    report
  • Beth Pariseau
    His point about performance is true no matter whose implementation we're talking about - a disk drive can deliver the same IOPS whether it is 40% full or 80% full. Some people simply won't be able to improve their utilization without sacrificing performance. But then, many storage arrays and applications today run at low capacity AND low performance utilization - these are the prime candidates for TP. IMHO, the conspiracy theories are just FUD: pricing and promotion won't be what inevitably limits the demand for TP, though. No, as with every TP implementation on the planet, **by definition** the trade-off of performance vs. capacity utilization, along with the inherent risks of over-subscription and uncontrolled rate of consumption will be what slows TP implementation - regardless of vendor or platform. Undoubtedly, many customers who understand these implications will decide NOT to use TP for their Tier 1 applications - at least not until they are sure they understand the implications and are prepared to deal with them. Bottom line: TP is not a miracle solution to increased capacity utilization for every application. It won't be adopted universally overnight simply because it is now available on Platform X. Like RAID 5, adoption will be gradual, and thus the impact on capacity demand will ramp slowly over the coming years - probably to go unnoticed against the backdrop of the continued 60% CAGR demand for capacity. As to the nail in 3PAR's coffin...I dunno, you tell me: When all your competitors offer the only differentiated feature you had, AND they have a rather long list of differentiated features that you DON'T have, plus a massively larger installed base of satisfied customers - what then? I'm thikning that things probably start looking pretty bleak, leaving the one-time pioneer defenseless except for maybe "my implementation of TP is better than theirs." No wait - hasn't their CEO already started playing that song?
    0 pointsBadges:
    report
  • Beth Pariseau
    "many storage arrays and applications today run at low capacity AND low performance utilization - these are the prime candidates for TP." If your array is running at low capacity utilization, you probably do not need to spend a lot of money for thin-provisioning.
    0 pointsBadges:
    report
  • Beth Pariseau
    "As to the nail in 3PAR’s coffin…I dunno, you tell me: When all your competitors offer the only differentiated feature you had, AND they have a rather long list of differentiated features that you DON’T have, plus a massively larger installed base of satisfied customers - what then? I’m thikning that things probably start looking pretty bleak, leaving the one-time pioneer defenseless except for maybe “my implementation of TP is better than theirs.”" I could not agree more.
    0 pointsBadges:
    report
  • Beth Pariseau
    Actually, yfeefy, that's exactly my point. In reality, thin provisioning addresses a storage management problem that few really suffer. Heck, the majority of 3PAR storage is "fat" provisioned, not thin. Most customers of 3PAR say that the #1 benefit is speed-of-provisioning. Speaking of which, Symmetrix storage provisioning has been improved from nearl 1hr (elapsed) per TB allocted to less than 8 minutes/TB in 4773. Virtual Provisioning reduces this even further for the actual provisioning, even if used to alloacte so-called "fat" devices (all fully allocated from the storage pool). In this case, you're not necessarily using less - or more - storage, just getting it allocated faster. For some, worth the price of VP alone.
    0 pointsBadges:
    report

Forgot Password

No problem! Submit your e-mail address below. We'll send you an e-mail containing your password.

Your password has been sent to: