One of the more interesting EMC announcements in the run up to EMC World 2012 came out today with little fanfare, but probably deserves more attention.
It's the VMAX SP: a specific, enhanced edition of the VMAX targeted at IT service providers.
For one thing, it includes all the software components needed to provision, meter and bill enterprise-class "high QoS" storage services.
All in one box.
It's also notable because it creates the option of transferring all the operational heavy lifting of running an enterprise-class storage farm back to EMC -- which we then deliver as a service to owners of the VMAX SP.
It's interesting to me because it shows what happens when you starting thinking about technology as a service vs. simply as a product.
And -- please pay attention -- you'll probably see more variations on this theme going forward from EMC and other vendors.
IT service providers are somewhat unique in that their fundamental business model is taking IT technology and delivering a paid-for service.
You want to understand how to run IT like a business? That's what service providers do for a living. And some of them do it quite well, thank you.
Like any business, they're trying to achieve the very maximum in value-add. The most attractive offers. The best use of resources. The most efficient processes. And so on.
It's a business much like any other.
A particular pain point for many IT service providers is storage: there's a lot of it, it's always growing, it can be expensive in multiple dimensions, it can be complex -- and so on.
Very often, multiple technological components have to be assembled and integrated to create the basic workflows -- more work, more effort, more cost that isn't going to the bottom line.
And -- up to now -- there's not been too many options where an IT service provider could turn to someone like EMC and say "here, you manage this for me -- I'm going to invest my people in something else".
Well, with the announcement of the new VMAX SP, there's an entirely new set of options for enterprise-class IT service providers to consider.
One of the things that EMC has been quietly been doing for many years is offering what we call SMS -- storage managed services.
As we became more proficient at this, we generated a substantial amount of intellectual property on how to do this: defining core processes and skills, building tools to automate important aspects of the proposition, and so on.
We even got to the point where we could manage very large storage farms without having anyone on site -- if the customer would let us, that is ... :)
In one sense, VMAX SP is the "productization" of this intellectual property generated over many years by our SMS teams in very large and very demanding environments.
Whether a service provider elects to run storage management operations and workflows internally -- or using an external service provided by EMC -- we think they'll win.
How It Works
The management appliance uses native REST interfaces to support all the storage-related OSS workflows that service providers need: provisioning, metering and billing.
And do so against all three dimensions of storage: capacity, performance and protection.
The canned portals are quite functional, but -- of course -- can be modified as needed for individual SP requirements.
The service provider can elect to provide all storage service management capabilities on their premises, using their staff -- or, more interestingly -- use EMC's back-end services to simply expose the portals directly to the people consuming services with no labor or integration investment on the part of the IT service provider.
You can decide whether or not you want to invest in your own skills, or simply rent EMC expertise in the form of an external managed service. Or perhaps some combination that shifts over time.
The idea of externally factoring scarce IT expertise "as a service" isn't exactly a new one; I believe this is the first time it's been applied to enterprise storage in this fashion.
Sure, you want to be able to deliver a wide range of great services that are performant, economical and protected -- but you don't get credit for things that your customers can't see.
Remember, this isn't something we cooked up last month in the lab -- it's the productization of things we've been doing successfully for many years in surprisingly large IT shops.
There's a real-world authenticity to the current offerings -- as well as the EMC people behind them.
Stepping Back A Bit
If you follow my blog, you're probably aware that for many years I've been arguing that IT is transforming from silos to services.
That transformation is occurring at its most rapid pace with IT service providers -- they win or lose by offering better IT services than their competition. As a result, they're continually looking for any edge they can get in doing better (and doing it for lower cost) than anyone else.
Here at EMC, I think we've done a decent job of internalizing that new line of thinking, and coming up with ways to make storage technologies easier to consume: not only as a product, but potentially as a service as well.
We've made the strategic choice not to compete with IT service providers, unlike many of our larger competitors in the industry. Instead, we've decided to invest our efforts in helping our IT service provider partners compete for the business.
That line of thinking has resulted in the VMAX SP.
But we'll undoubtedly see more variations on this theme before long.