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Dell EMC to 'stay the course' with flash storage portfolio

Dell EMC plans to “stay the course” with its flash storage portfolio despite overlapping products at the midrange and low end, an executive at the newly combined company confirmed.

Daniel Cobb, a fellow and vice president of media strategy at Dell EMC, said the company would continue to invest in all of its the flash products. That includes support for emerging technologies such as nonvolatile memory express (NVMe), NVMe over Fabrics and 3D TLC NAND flash.

“You may not always see the newest technologies first in the lowest end platforms,” Cobb said. “That’s usually not the way it happens. But as things continue to go mainstream and suppliers get their volumes up and their costs down and under control, we’ll see the appropriate technologies end up across the whole portfolio.”

Cobb referred to Dell EMC’s DSSD rack-scale appliance as “the flagship in terms of performance and throughput” for real-time workloads. EMC’s original all-flash array platform, XtremIO, and all-flash VMAX target general-purpose enterprise workloads.

The greatest potential for all-flash overlap is in the midrange. The Dell EMC flash portfolio includes EMC’s new Unity-F and older VNX-F arrays. Dell holdovers include the SC Series, formerly known as Compellent, and PS Series, formerly EqualLogic.

“Our plans there are stay the course, keep those customers happy, keep them running on the media that they’re comfortable running with,” Cobb said. “Both platforms have already made the move to flash.”

Cobb said he expects VNX customers to “be delighted” with the new Unity product and ultimately move to that product. But he said they can stay with VNX as long as they want, much the same as Compellent and EqualLogic will be able to do.

“As [former EMC CEO] Joe Tucci liked to say, ‘I’d rather have multiple products in a portfolio and risk managing the overlaps than leave some gaps.’ We’re pretty comfortable doing that now. We’ve been doing it for a while,” Cobb said.

He said EMC is able to continue to invest in so many flash product lines because it is accustomed to sharing investments such as flash management, deduplication and compression across multiple product lines.

Yet another all-flash product is on EMC’s roadmap. Project Nitro, an all-flash version of its Isilon scale-out NAS array, is due to be equipped with more cost-effective 3D TLC NAND flash to target file and object workloads. Cobb provided no updated timetable for Project Nitro.

EMC already held a commanding 40% market share for the second quarter of 2016 in the all-flash array (AFA) market, according to a report released by International Data Corp. (IDC) this month. NetApp (16%), Hewlett Packard Enterprise (13.8%), Pure Storage (11.5%) and IBM (8.7%) trailed by considerable margins.

Dell’s SC and PS Series arrays do not qualify for IDC’s AFA stats, because they’re only all-flash configurations of hybrid flash arrays, according to Eric Burgener, a storage research director at IDC. EMC products factoring into IDC’s second quarter statistics were XtremIO, VMAX All Flash, Unity-F and DSSD D5, Burgener said.

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