Bill Roth, Ulitzer Editor-at-Large

Bill Roth

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Open Letter to EMC: Questions Everyone Has About Your (Alleged) Purchase of XtremIO

Dear EMC:

There was an interesting article in The Register about your allegedly forthcoming purchase of XtremIO.  Let’s assume it is true for the sake of argument. If so:

Welcome to the world of SSDs and flash arrays! We didn't welcome you back in the fall when you re-launched your all flash array with the VNX-F (apparently supplanting the Symmetrix all flash array) because we knew from head-to-head competition that neither solution was quite ready for prime time. Now it seems you have admitted as much with a third(!) bite at the apple via your acquisition of XtremIO.

We have a few questions that arise out of EMC’s actions. If you are an EMC customer/prospect, journalist, or blogger, feel free to use these questions as you talk to EMC in the coming weeks.

File Systems

File systems take several years and millions of production hours to become as mature and as good at keeping data safe as the ZFS technology used by NexentaStor (and Facebook and millions of others). How many production hours has the XtremIO solution achieved given that it appears to not be generally available?

SSD Performance

Nexenta works closely with most leading SSD vendors. We have more than 1,000 deployments that employ SSDs and flash to accelerate the random I/O created by VMware and other environments. We have a lot of data about how flash and SSDs actually perform and degrade over time. Do you?

In the past, you've suggested that SSDs and flash are not enterprise class as your primary storage. Have you changed your mind? If so, upon what data are you basing this change in perspective?

Idea Borrowed From ZFS: Hybrid Storage Pools

NetApp has at least announced, but not yet delivered, hybrid storage pools that include SSDs and hard drives in one pool so that you have the cost savings and security of HDDs with the performance of SSDs; they appear to have "borrowed" this idea from the creators of ZFS, which now is used in our NexentaStor. Today, Nexenta has more than 1,000 deployments utilizing hybrid storage pool architecture to accelerate writes and reads. Will "XtremIO" become a part of a hybrid storage pool offering? If not, why not?

The “Right” Solution for Primary Storage?

What happens to your customers using any one of the several solutions your hyper aggressive sales team has, until now, claimed was the right solution for primary storage? How long does it take to migrate, for example, a 50TB array across a 10G network? (Hint—many hours of downtime.) Does this mean you are throwing in the towel on the Isilon arrays, which were never build to handle the workload of virtualization and, thereby, cloud and still cannot—no matter how many $350k+ sales hunters you throw at the market? Wouldn't it be easier to simply add SSDs to an array the customer already has in place? Is your business model getting in the way of your customer's needs for an easy upgrade path or is it your technology?

Desperate Acquisitions

You've acquired many, many companies over the years. You hit a home run with VMware, which now is worth more than the rest of EMC put together. Wouldn't it be a better use of the $100-400 million you are spending to acquire XtremIO to focus on VMware and to return the enormous cash hoards your 1990s technologies and business model generate to investors? After all, if you won't stop desperate acquisitions of yet more unproven proprietary technology for the sake of your customers, how about saying no to future egregious acquisitions for the sake of your owners, those that own EMC stock? Or at least declare a dividend. If Apple can, you can too.

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More Stories By Bill Roth

Bill Roth is a Silicon Valley veteran with over 20 years in the industry. He has played numerous product marketing, product management and engineering roles at companies like BEA, Sun, Morgan Stanley, and EBay Enterprise. He was recently named one of the World's 30 Most Influential Cloud Bloggers.