EMC finds a flashy use for Intel's multi-cores in VNX

EMC, which is currently leading the mid-range data centre market, has released a product that will now take years for its rivals to match, it is claimed.

The outfit’s R&D team has emerged from its smoke filled labs with a product range which actually takes Intel’s multi-core chip design and makes them less of a chocolate teapot and more what Chipzilla has been telling us they are supposed to be.

The new EMC VNX Series is being touted by David Goulden, President & COO, EMC with lots of words like “revolutionary” and according to a few of the analysts we talked to he is probably right.

EMC’s VNX range is based on the idea that while big data machines have been around for a while, they are not properly optimised.

For example, while firms need to have much bigger data centres to cope with the influx of data being delivered to them by mobile devices, they only use about five percent of the data that often.

So if you want to speed up a data centre box, all you need to do is stick that five percent of data onto a flash drive.

Goulden said that this is all very well, and there are hybrid drives out there, but the software which is running them is configured for the old steam powered hard drives.

EMC tinkered with the code to make the SSD software start behaving like it.

Another area which has not been properly developed is the use of multi-cores. Intel has been churning out multi-core chips for ages and has more on the drawing board.

However, no one has really developed systems which optimised the chips properly. Some cores will be flat out, and others will be taking a break in the sun with something cool. With better control of the cores, the EMC server can be much more efficient and faster.

Finally the EMC gear is optimised for better virtualisation.

The specs shown to us have the boxes managing 2X more virtual machines at the same price.

Goulden was talking about boxes that can manage price/performance figures that were one-third the price for the same performance of the previous generation.

What all this means is that the VNX can manage speed and performance figures, so customers who would have bought one level box can buy a cheaper box and still have a data centre which goes faster.

EMC’s president of Unified Storage, Rich Napolitano was enthused, claiming that “everything in the midrange market changed today” and the developments are “a huge leap forward”.

In an industry used to hyperbole this seemed a bit like spin, until you could see that he clearly was not joking.

“This platform could not have been built two years ago because no-one had solved the latency problems,” Napolitano said.

Most of the changes appear to have been at the software level. Napolitano talked about how his software teams rewrote about 10 percent of the code from the previous generation models. This made for millions of lines that had to be adapted.

Practically it means that companies can set up smaller cheaper and faster data centres that use far less power. These will get even more powerful as Chipzilla releases its many core chips in the future.

The top of the range version of the machine runs a fully optimised flash drive array which, while more expensive than its hybrid cousins, is there to break a few records.

According to the pride of analysts we found encircling the bar at the launch event, there is nothing like this on the market at the moment.

Ashish Nadkarni, Research Director, Storage at IDC said that it was a fundamental change to how midrange storage customers can make the most out of flash within their arrays- compounded with a totally new level of price and performance that the midrange storage market has not witnessed before.

EMC’s previous incarnation VNX range had been in the lead and was due for a refresh.

Many expected the new machines to be faster, and perhaps more energy efferent, but few actually expected them to have figures like this.

What must also be putting the fear of god into others in the mid-range market is that EMC sees all this as simply stage one. Chipzilla is planning on adding more cores to its chips, and EMC is rubbing its paws with glee because the system it has established is only likely to be much better.

EMC wheeled out customers of its beta programmes to show how much better life was using the technology.

Paul Stenler, Managing Director, Citi Infrastructure Group, CitiBank said that he could not really see any point trying to run other databoxes. He installed 20 petabytes of the new machine and had seen performance improvements of between 74 and 124 percent. In the case of filesharing texts he was looking at 293 percent improvements.