EMC World 2013: EMC talks up flash storage ambitions


EMC has set its sights on leading the flash storage market, declaring its plans for the technology as its "must not fail" objective for 2013.

The storage giant has been gradually building out its flash product portfolio in recent years, through the launch of its Project Lightning initiative, which was unveiled at EMC World in 2011, and its acquisition of flash vendor XtremIO last year.

Speaking to IT Pro, David Nicolson, chief strategist of EMC's flash storage division, said the company was looking at deploying the technology throughout the infrastructure stack.

At the moment, the company's flash portfolio consists of hybrid and all-flash storage arrays, and servers featuring its PCIe card technology.

"Our executives have listed flash as the number one must not fail initiative for 2013, and we really are seeing it becoming ubiquitous, in that it will eventually be everywhere, in all parts of the infrastructure," said Nicolson.

"That's not to be confused with the idea that all data will live on flash, as we don't believe that. As far as we can see into the future, there will be a mix of media [spinning disk and flash] that will be appropriate for a variety of data types," he added.

EMC's activity in the market has ruffled a few feathers, with several flash storage vendors including Fusion-IO and Pure Storage openly attacking the firm's flash plans in the past.

However, Nicolson said the animosity of its flash rivals is of no great concern to EMC, although that's not to say the firm does not keep close tabs on what the other runners and riders in the market are up to.

"Part of EMC's ability to innovate is to look at the great ideas the start-up community has come up with and compare them to one another...and we do a lot of due diligence, board investment and digging in to see what the best move is for every piece of the technology stack," he said.

"Do we engineer it ourselves or do we acquire and innovate, is the big question...and in the case of all-flash arrays we made a strategic investment in XtremIO as we felt they were the best of the pack out there," Nicolson added.

In the face of competitive threats from other members of the flash storage community, Nicolson said very few boast the breadth of products EMC has or the financial backing.

"Do we see other start-ups as a threat? Yeah, absolutely, and that's what keeps us agile and [keeps us going] so our customers benefit. Everyone benefits from that kind of competition," he said.

"And we think we're well poised in the face of that competition, because in the case of some of our small competitors they tend to focus on one piece of the infrastructure stack.

"We definitely salute the pioneers and, in some cases, have had the benefit of learning from some of their mistakes," he concluded.

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.