EMC Sees Bright Future for Flash and De-Dupe

The storage giant sees flash drives and data de-duplication playing a big role in enterprises, according to EMC World speakers.

LAS VEGAS -- EMC sees a big role in enterprise storage for flash drives and data de-duplication technology, if the start of EMC World Monday in Las Vegas is any indication.

The opening press conference focused on several new products: two new disk libraries for LAN backup to disk; another disk library incorporating data de-duplication (define) and spin-down technology, called MAID (define); the latest version of EMC Avamar backup, recovery and de-duplication software; and a new version of EMC NetWorker backup software.

While Dave Donatelli, head of information storage at Hopkinton, Mass.-based EMC, covered these products, he also talked heavily about two subjects: de-dupe and flash drives, also known as SSDs (define).

No Flash in the Pan

Flash, it seems, is the way of the future, according to EMC.

"Flash will significantly change the way storage is designed," Donatelli said. "By replacing the fastest disk on our DMX systems with flash, you increase performance by 30 times in terms of IOPS."

He handed two flash drives around the room — one 73GB and the other 146GB. The flash drives were manufactured by Seagate and STEC. They are light, high-performance drives that EMC is currently deploying for high-end storage on DMX systems, but will gradually find its way down to lower storage tiers.

When you look at response time, Donatelli said, you see the following: The best Fibre Channel disks out there can do no better than 6 ms response time, and that gets worse as traffic grows. With flash, no matter how busy it is, access stays at 1 ms or less. It also uses 98 percent less power.

He admitted that right now, however, flash is far more expensive and would only be deployed in the most mission-critical settings. But that will change in the near future, he expects.

"Flash is coming down in price much faster than rotating disk," Donatelli said. "By 2010, it will be near price parity with high-speed FC drives. So it will gradually take over more and more of storage."

That said, he doesn't see hard drives going away — at least any time soon. He believes SATA drives, in particular, will have a long history due to their density, price and power performance. But he expects flash to eat into the high-end storage pie.

De-Dupe, De-Dupe Everywhere

Quite a few storage companies these days are talking up de-dupe, and EMC is also getting in on the act. Donatelli continually stressed de-duplication during the press conference.

"De-dupe has many use cases and EMC covers all of them," he said. "Remote office de-dupe, LAN backup to disk, backing up of virtual machines are just a few examples."

EMC's vision is that de-dupe will eventually be done all over the enterprise. This requires different types of de-dupe technology. EMC's Avamar products, for instance, are aimed at the source side; i.e., de-duplication before data goes into a disk library. Other technology, he said, is needed to address duplicate files once they are inside the disk library.

EMC has integrated Avamar into VMware, for example, in order to target a common problem with virtual machines — slow backups.

"Customers tell us they really want ease of use, de-dupe and virtualization," Donatelli said. "Clearly, there is a challenge in backing up virtual environments."

He gives the example of 10 servers being consolidated into one box with 10 VMs. Now you have a backup nightmare, as you have to run 10 backups through that one box. He said EMC's new VM backups are speeded up greatly via de-dupe. All redundant data is eliminated to reduce the backup window.

"De-duplication is a vital technology, as it will really drive costs down," EMC CEO Joe Tucci said.

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