EMC leads in size and speed at the high end of storage, but it's also improving low-end systems

Tony Kontzer, Contributor

February 3, 2006

3 Min Read

IP storage is a cheaper alternative to Fibre Channel SANs, but adoption has been slow because its performance hasn't been up to snuff for complex business applications. EMC's new technology should help bring down the storage cost-performance ratios for technologies that require working with large files over IP networks, such as grid computing, video imaging, and software development.

"It's going to help IP storage cross the chasm from early adoption to mainstream usage," David Donatelli, executive VP of storage-platform operations, said during a news conference in London last month. EMC has made the related client software open source.

EMC's Tally

Revenue: Grew from $5.4 billion in 2002 to $9.7 billion in 2005

Growth: Sales have risen by double digits for 10 consecutive quarters

Acquisitions: $4 billion worth in three years, including Legato, Documentum, VMware, and Captiva

R&D: Up from $720 million in 2003 to more than $1 billion in 2005

Global Markets: Sales in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa jumped from $350 million in 1Q 2002 to $800 million in 4Q 2005, and now make up nearly a third of sales

EMC further bolstered its IP-storage portfolio with storage-provisioning software that automatically monitors storage needs and reallocates storage by class as those needs change. It's beefing up data protection in IP storage networks with IP-replication tools. And the new Rainfinity Global File Virtualization application suite improves management, data movement, and storage utilization when relying on multiple file servers.

EMC's wide-ranging product strategy reflects the rapidly expanding storage needs of companies, 70% of which have at least 1 terabyte of data, compared with just 1% 10 years ago, says Steve Duplessie, senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group.

"No one ever needs less, it's always more," he says. The problem is that storage systems have evolved into vast virtual warehouses but without much in the way of effective inventory management. "For 35 years, we worried about bigger and bigger buckets to put stuff in," Duplessie says. "What we didn't think about was how to get stuff out. That's the new problem."

Making the problem even more challenging is the pace at which information growth is outstripping IT resources. Information stored on disk arrays is expected to grow 70% this year, while IT budgets will increase less than 5%, David Goulden, EMC's executive VP of worldwide customer operations, said during last month's news conference.

To that extent, EMC plans to follow its recent announcements, which focused mostly on hardware, with a slew of software releases later in the year. The company had 30 product rollouts in 2005, and with its 2006 research and development budget slated to eclipse $1 billion for the second year in a row, that pace doesn't figure to slow. "Our innovation engine is running at full steam," Goulden said.

EMC may have the biggest and fastest boxes today, but the company knows better than to ease up. "It won't last. Others will work on building a bigger mousetrap," Duplessie says. "They aren't going to sit still."

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