EMC executives contend that enterprise flash drives and cloud storage will profoundly change their industry over the next five to 10 years, offering faster, more efficient storage, and highly scalable Web-based platforms that reduce demand on datacenters.
At this week's EMC World in Las Vegas, the company's annual meeting for customers, partners, analysts and media, CEO Joe Tucci and his team spoke optimistically about both technologies and offered a few details on how EMC intends to utilize them.
Tucci called flash "the one thing that will change the storage industry more than anything else over the next 10 years." He also promised that Maui, the software component of EMC's future cloud storage offering, would start shipping this summer. (Compare storage products.)
The potential of flash and cloud storage "are the two themes that are starting to resonate as far as what's next," says Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Brian Babineau. "Cloud computing has been getting a lot of attention because we know it's coming; we just don't know in what flavor, how soon, and how people will make money on it."
Switching the media from rotating disk drives to solid-state drives using flash memory, as EMC did in January when it began offering enterprise-class flash storage, will have significant consequences, Babineau says. A start-up called Pliant Technology has since joined EMC in building solid-state flash drives for enterprises.
Flash still has to come down in price significantly to become a viable alternative to disk in most companies, EMC officials acknowledged. Disk will remain the less expensive option in most use cases for the foreseeable future and an important part of a customer's arsenal for many years, they said.
But EMC storage president David Donatelli predicted that flash storage will be nearly as affordable as high-end disk drives by the end of 2010. And though EMC isn't the company building the flash chip -- that would be STEC -- Donatelli said EMC will use its influence to bring the price down.
EMC's bulk buying power will go a long way toward reducing the cost to customers, Babineau says. "I think they're going to drive the cost down and make it an alternative to disk," he says. "If you're a big consumer with a product and you buy in bulk, you can lower the cost. We've seen this movie before. EMC did this a lot with the enterprise disk drive market."
In cloud storage, EMC bought online backup provider Mozy last September, and for the last few months has been shipping beta versions of its Hulk hardware, a bulk, high-density storage product. Hulk will be paired with the Maui file system software. EMC has been vague about these products, but Tucci said more details will be forthcoming soon.