To this day, too many people still get hung up over the word "cloud" -- they dismiss it as merely marketing fluff, or an unpleasant flavor of vendor hype. To each their own, I say.
Collectively, we've thankfully moved beyond debating definitions, and started on the more challenging work of embracing the new models.
But just because the model changes doesn't mean the core requirements change.
Critical IT services still need to be highly available, performant, secure, recoverable, efficient, etc. -- irregardless of whether we're talking about cloud or a more traditional IT delivery model. And that discussion applies to enterprise-class storage as well.
That's the core essence of the new VMAX Cloud Edition.
It still delivers on the core values a VMAX is known for -- but it now fully embraces the newer as-a-service model behind cloud. And I think it's clear proof that an even an older dog can learn some impressive new tricks -- if it's smart enough!
Get into any serious cloud, service provider, or progressive enterprise IT discussion, and you'll end up talking about as-a-service models.
On the southbound side (what IT sees), make those services incredibly easy to acquire, provision, flex and monitor.
You're essentially still doing the same work as before; you're just doing it in a much more efficient way. There is no magic involved.
For serious enterprise-class workloads, many people turn to enterprise-class storage, like the VMAX. Delivering enterprise-class storage as-a-service has quickly blossomed into a strong demand from our customers and service provider partners alike.
Our first outing along these lines (VMAX SP) did a good job of testing the market with IT service providers; now the team is back with a very mature set of products -- aimed at both enterprises and service providers -- that not only include technology, but the all-important "supply chain" behind the service.
Real Enterprise-Class Storage Is Different
I drew some predictable flack (both internally and externally!) when I shared my personal views around what comprises enterprise-class storage.
It's not really worth debating here -- the only evidence I'd point to is the substantial part of the storage market that is served by this class of products, with EMC's VMAX the apparent market share leader.
If you're an IT shop -- and you have these requirements -- you know who you are.
IT service providers are increasingly interested in this topic as well: they are quite aware that the majority of IT spend comes from larger enterprises, and these potential clients will have enterprise-class demands, including storage services.
We want to help them get after that opportunity as quickly and efficiently as possible :)
A Bit Of History You Might Not Know
For many years, EMC has been quietly delivering what we dubbed SMS -- storage managed services. We occasionally offered this managed service to a handful of our customers who needed storage-as-a-service before there were any products purpose-built to do that.
The advantage: in the process, we built up a considerable amount of expertise and learning around what's exactly involved in turning physical storage arrays into an easy-to-consume services: use cases, workflows, application norms, and so on.
As you dig into the new VMAX CE, you'll probably be impressed by how mature the product is: it seems they've built things into it you didn't even know to ask for. That's the clear benefit of the prior SMS work EMC has done -- we're essentially "productizing" what we've already learned.
To be clear, VMAX CE is a product that helps our customers deliver a service.
It's All About Storage Service Classes
The core concept behind VMAX CE are storage service classes -- and making them easier to produce, manage and consume. Typically, though, there's a confusing thicket of technology choices behind a simple set of services: choice of storage media, use of flash, intelligent software like FAST VP that optimizes things, controllers to drive it all.
The simplifying concept behind storage service classes is the IOPs/GB metric. The presumption is that -- for most use cases -- performance will need to scale linear with capacity scaling.
A storage class, then, is primarily defined by the IOPs/GB you want to deliver (capacity-oriented or performance-oriented), expressed as a mix of storage media, intelligent software, data protection and controller capacity.
If you don't want to figure all of that out by yourself, that's fine -- EMC has pre-templated three "service bands" (gold, silver, bronze) across two orientations (capacity and performance oriented) that represent useful starting points based on our enterprise experience to date. Of course, these can be adjusted or extended (e.g. diamond, tin) as needed -- but there's a great starting point if you're in a hurry.
Need more "silver" capacity? It's priced per usable terabyte with everything you need: hardware and software to deliver that service level. No figuring out protection overhead, mixes of flash and disk, software licences, etc. -- it's all been done by our engineering team, and it's completely linear and transparent.
Popular bundles of storage service classes are packaged as "starter kits" (small, medium, large) that have everything you need to set up quickly and start delivering enterprise-class storage services out of your "vending machine" -- be it as an enterprise or a service provider.
The Need For Workflow
As you'd expect, VMAX CE automates all the provisioning activites associated with making storage usable by an application, including automating the switch zoning. Storage admins spend less time on rote tasks, more time on useful stuff.
Roles can be delegated so that a storage admin doesn't have to be involved in provisioning activities, if you choose.
However, make all of your storage services ridiculously easy for users to consume, and they'll all get consumed ridicuously fast. Storage can be that way.
So, obviously, there's a need for workflow to intermediate between what a user says they want, and provisioning the requested service.
Automating the 'back end' of actually provisioning the requested storage service was already largely there, thanks to native VMAX and switch management capabilities; the design goal here is to put a useful bit of latency between requestor and provider to make sure it's an authorized request, enough capacity is on hand, ask relevant questions, etc.
There's a nice, customizable "home page" for clients to see with news and updates, password help and the like. Again, it looks to be a very complete solution.
For those that want to do more, there's a rich set of RESTful APIs that can be used to create your own tenant presentations or customized workflows -- all very extensible, or just use what ships with the box. This has proven to be useful when a customer (usually a service provider) has their own provisioning engine, and they just want the VMAX to plug in.
Back-End EMC Services
Part of the VMAX CE solution includes a range of options for EMC to provide back-end online services to take much of the burden off of the organization delivering storage-as-a-service -- think of them as an extension to our familiar remote support services. Things like configuration management, watching for problems, providing reporting, etc.
Customers have a choice of how much of the operational management they'd like to do themselves, and how much they'd like us to do on their behalf.
The Tenant View
The "role matrix" (who is allowed to do what) is rich and pre-populated for a typical environment; again, everything you need to get going as quickly as possible, and -- of course -- completely customizable.
Tenant isolation (QoS, security, auditing, visibility, etc.) is at the upper end of the spectrum as you'd expect. For example, more than a few of EMC's prior SMS customers are large financial institutions; the VMX CE model and capabilities exceeds their operational standards.
Very Easy Configuration And Ordering
The VMAX CE starter kits are prepackaged and ready to go. There's an optimized set of processes to get a customer or service provider up and running quickly.
What stood out most was the disappearance of the traditional a-la-carte component ordering.
Everything you need to deliver the storage service is part of the price, and capacity expansion is offered denominated by the service band you want to expand: everything transparent, everything linear -- and far easier to consume than the traditional model.
Need more "silver" capacity? There's a part number for that ...
And There's Much More ...
I asked the team for technical documentation, and I got about 150MB sent to me. There's no way I can cover everything in VMAX CE in even one of my long-ish blog posts -- hopefully there's enough here to tweak your interest.
For the former, the VMAX CE is a fairly straight-up proposition: evaluate your customer needs, take a look at the alternatives, and you'll quickly see how well VMAX CE stands up. There's not a lot of drama involved.
But for most enterprise IT groups, there's a potentially a lot more organizational heavy lifting potentially at hand. The storage team may justifiably claim "that's not how we do things today". And they'd be right -- but that's the point, isn't it? The procurement organization will say the same thing. As will likely the finance function.
The pattern is achingly familiar: traditional IT is organized around functional silos vs. delivering streamlined services that meet the user needs faster, better and far more cost-effectively than before.
But with the VMAX CE, you certainly can't claim it's a vendor problem any more :)