At the core of EMC's mega-announcements yesterday was the long awaited coming together of the Clariion and Celerra lines in the form of the VNX and VNXe. These are firmly targeted at NetApp's core market; dual controller, unified storage; probably still the fastest growing part of the storage market, well certainly within in the external shared storage market.
The VNX can simply be seen a direct convergence of the Clariion and Celerra but the VNXe takes this convergence and pushes it down into the SMB market; VNXe could be competing with Drodo, Synology, Iomega (yes I know an EMC company) and a whole host of other smaller players. NetApp have also pushed into this space, so we can look for more heated and noisy competition in this space as well.
The VNX range (and I do include the VNXe) further progress the idea that Storage is Software; the heart of every storage appliance is software and the core differentiator is no longer hardware; with almost no exceptions within this market sector, the hardware is Intel-based and pretty much commodity.
EMC, like IBM have massively invested in simplifying their management interface and UniSphere is massive step forward in simplicity. Much-hated by experts, configuration wizards enable the new breed of IT generalists to set up their devices with out becoming experts in storage. Yes, you can still get access to the underlying configuration but hopefully in most cases, it will be good enough.
I think the VNX is good enough for a great deal of the market; NetApp have ploughed this furrow very well, they often pitch their Filers as good enough and point out that you don't need expensive Symmetrix hardware to service most requirements.
And it is here that EMC have a problem, the VNX is good enough to replace a massive percentage of their Symmetrix footprint but within some territories, the account teams still lead with Symmetrix and come up with a lot of 'good reasons' why a customer should retain this footprint; it is only when the customer makes serious moves towards NetApp that the Clariion and Celerra come into play. This actually adversely impacts both the credibility of EMC but also their products.
The VNX is good enough to consign the Symmetrix range into a mainframe-like plateau and eventual decline; there will be still be workloads and environments (mainframe for one) which are served best by the Symmetrix but the so-called mid-range will be the future for many of us.
Now we have the VNX, I wonder if the next big thing for EMC will be how they federate the VNX range and enable clusters of VNX; federated VNX will yet further push it's market coverage.
And as EMC continue to evolve the VNX architecture; I think we can expect further performance improvements akin to the doubling of VMAX performance. There is probably a lot of scope for improvements as EMC work to converge the Celerra and Clariion code-bases but Unisphere should allow for much of this to be hidden from the customer.
Yet there is still a big question about VNX in general; is it actually the right product for today and more importantly tomorrow? Is it what we actually need and does it progress the storage landscape? It is certainly the right product for EMC, it builds on what they have and is better than what they have but with the Isilon purchase and the still cloudy future of Atmos; time will tell.