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EMC CEO drops storage product hints at investors' forum

Beth Pariseau
EMC Corp. president and CEO Joe Tucci today dropped hints about what customers can expect from the vendor's storage product lines this year, including a second phase of solid-state drive (SSD) deployment and new federated search for compliance archiving.

Speaking at a Strategic Forum for Institutional Investors in Boston, Tucci identified SSDs as the top area of growing interest for the storage market.

"SSD-tuned arrays will totally change the storage game," he said. EMC added solid-state drive support over the last year to its Symmetrix, Clariion and Celerra disk arrays. Over the last two quarters, Tucci said, EMC "sold every Flash drive we could get our hands on."

Although EMC's move into SSDs was originally greeted with skepticism, all other major storage vendors followed suit. Hewlett-Packard (HP) Co. and Pillar Data Systems launched SSD arrays this week.

During his keynote talk, Tucci said "We're going into phase two of this." While he didn't go into further details, industry sources said EMC will be looking to make its array controllers work better with SSDs by providing automated migration of data to and from the SSD tier. This is generally considered the next phase for most storage vendors in supporting SSDs.

Tucci said Flash prices are plummeting, claiming the average price for the medium has gone from 40x the cost of Fibre Channel (FC) to 8x the cost of FC in the last 12 months. However, this doesn't jibe with what other vendors are saying. HP

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sells the same SSD drives from STEC Inc. as EMC, and prices them at $270 per GB vs. $6 to $11 per gig for Fibre Channel. That comes to approximately a 25x to 45x difference. Pillar also claims its new 12-drive SSD Brick will be less expensive than most competitors' SSDs, but also puts the price at about 20x the price of FC.

Cross-enterprise archiving preview

Tucci also addressed what's coming in EMC's content management and archiving products this year, saying the company is working on a way to search and enforce compliance and archiving policies across different data repositories in the enterprise.

"Everybody in the archiving market is chasing Autonomy [Corp.] right now," said Stephen Foskett, director of the data practice at Mountain View, Calif.-based Contoural Inc. "You're seeing every vendor partnering with a search vendor to expand the scope and offer a whole corporate archiving vision."

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The down economy and the dedupe wars

Tucci reiterated gloomy forecasts about the economy in 2009. He said many chief information officers don't yet know their budgets for this year or have budgets but are restricted in their spending because of the economy.

According to Tucci, EMC is focused on areas where he thinks customers will keep spending, such as data reduction and storage utilization. He said EMC surpassed Data Domain Inc. in data deduplication market share in the fourth quarter with more than $90 million in revenue vs. Data Domain's $85.2 million. That number represents 300% growth for EMC. "We are now the category leader with the fastest growth," Tucci said.

Data Domain has more systems installed than EMC -- reporting more than 2,900 customers worldwide -- and not all of EMC's dedupe products directly compete with Data Domain. But John Webster, principal IT advisor at Nashua, N.H.-based Illuminata Inc., said that with more large companies like EMC and Symantec Corp. getting into the market with data deduplication, "you can see a threat to [Data Domain's] model start to emerge."

The declining economy will also open up "opportunistic acquisition" possibilities, Tucci said. Illuminata's Webster said he thought these were most likely to augment VMware Inc.'s cloud data center initiatives. Contoural's Foskett noted that there are also businesses out there focusing on enterprise search "that could fit nicely with [EMC's] Centera, Atmos and Documentum."

One company that is not for sale, Tucci said, is VMware. There has been speculation that EMC would sell off its majority share (approximately 84%) of VMware, but Tucci said VMware and its server virtualization technology are too valuable to part with. "We have no intention of separating these two companies and strategies," he said.