back to article EMC Unity or VNX3? You tell me

The big announcement at the recent EMC World was VNX3 – or EMC Unity as we now have to call it. The EMC marketing Reality Distortion Field is in full effect, with the company at pains to claim that Unity is a brand new product “designed from the ground up”, although your correspondent believes it appears to be significantly …

  1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

    I think the bigger issue is that Unity promises to be "good enough" at the right price to appeal to the mass market. Undercutting Tintri, Tegile and others for a lot of use cases.

    Also: don't underestimate retooling the UI, both GUI and CLI. Ease of use is king: if EMC have solved that, they go a very long way towards damaging the competition.

    Unity starts at the right price to make me, as an SMB admin, sit up and take notice. My midmarket customers certainly are talking. The pressure is on now for Tintri and the like to evolve. EMC have changed the rules and nobody gets to be a one-trick pony anymore if they want to survive.

    Interesting times ahead. And at this price point, arrays aren't yet dead.

    1. RollTide14


      You're falling right into EMC marketing's hands...absolutely NO shot you say this is at the right price point when you see the actual pricing on it....especially with zero efficiencies.

      1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

        Re: Re:

        I've had a good chat with the Unity product manager and I am at the very least optimistic about pricing on this. Typically I'm the guy who says everything is overpriced and I am also the guy who is normally demanding deduplication and compression on everything as well.

        That said, for usable storage with the features it does offer and the performance they're committing to...there isn't a whole hell of a lot out there that competes directly with Unity. Even more so if/when data efficiency is added to the mix.

        It is the very first time an EMC product has actually excited me. I can't wait to test it.

        1. RollTide14

          Re: Re:

          I don't want to come across as a complete EMC hater (used to work there and sell some in different pockets at my VAR) but I think you're getting the wool pulled over your eyes.

          I've seen the pricing on this already and you're looking at $3-$4 per GB useable (remember no efficiencies).....does that seem like a good deal to you?

          1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

            Re: Re:

            When just about anyone else selling arrays is selling at $5 or even $10 usable? Yes. That's a good deal to me. (Especially when what is claimed usable by companies using data efficiency tech is usually about double what is actually achievable.)

            Unity is more reliable than a Synology, by far. That means that I start comparing it to competition with the IXSystems TrueNAS at the low end, and then up against Tintri, Tegile, 3PAR and the like higher up. There isn't a whole hell of a lot in between. (Well, Compellent. But for how long?)

            When I look at performance and capacity Unity is actually price competitive with SMB-focused hyperconverged appliances, let alone other arrays! And it makes a lot more sense in an environment already built around traditional infrastructure than trying a brownfield shift to HCI.

            Also: I am not pre-judging the effectiveness of their hybrid solution. I don't believe in "all flash or go home". So loading it up as a hybrid solution (which starts somewhere around $10K USD) is perfectly acceptable to me, assuming it delivers. So far, people I trust have said the hybrid tech works just fine, and I am working with EMC to get a unit to test for myself.

            Unity has a lower floor cost than its competitors. That is a *huge* advantage. Maybe it doesn't work out so well when fully loaded as an all-flash array, but that isn't where I'm looking at it. I'm looking at this from the standpoint of "will this deliver as a 20-40TB hybrid storage array for the SMB and midmarket", a segment that is horrifically underserved. Unity looks like it may well be one of the only solutions to hit that sweet spot and not be butts covered butts in butt sauce.

            1. RollTide14

              Re: Re:

              All very fair and valid points, especially the 20TB-40TB hybrid storage for the SMB mid market space and the all flash or go home comments. This just reminds me of the FAS2XXX/VNXe releases of "configs starting as low as $8,000!!! You got a single controller, 1TB of disk, no SW, and a year of basic support" Any real world config ended up being 3X+ that amount.

              Now I predominantly sell NetApp (which I know you aren't a huge fan of so I'll try and tone down being a fanboy and look at this objectively) but if I showed a $5-$10GB price tag I would get laughed out of the room. I've sold 5 AFF arrays in the past 6 months and all of them are under half of your $5GB price tag and thats with only a 2:1 (useable to effective) ratio.

              Just curious, why do you think Unity has a lower floor cost than its competition?

              1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

                Re: Re:

                Because I can do maths?

                Let's put Netapp to one side because HAHAHAHA Netapp. (I would never sell a company so clearly on its way out to a customer.) So that leaves me comparing Unity to HPE, Dell, HDS and the startups. (We all know nobody can afford IBM.)

                Unity doesn't have extra software purchases. This was the very first thing that the EMC product manager told me. They heard this one loud and clear. In theory, upgrades will come out and shouldn't be something you have to buy. Without pay to play then Unity becomes something you can more directly compare to competition.

                Unity starts around the $10K mark for hybrids. I don't remember the exact number, but I mentally put it in that box. It isn't a hell of a lot of storage at that price, but if you scale up as a hybrid it doesn't cost too bad.

                As an all flash array it can be - is - pretty expensive. Still, it's cheaper than many of the startups, about where I'd expect 3PAR to be. Raw flash to raw flash, Compellent is probably cheaper in the mid range and higher. HDS is definitely cheaper in the high end. (But then again, isn't it always?)

                So then in order to be "cheaper" than Unity you have to start comparing Unity's raw flash to the "usable flash" numbers provided by vendors. This is where I start getting into a lot of problems.

                Many of my clients are photographers and videographers. A lot of GIS data and other "not really very compressible things". I don't get 2:1 ratios. At best I have seen 1.6:1, and that was with SimpliVity, where the file storage was in a VM.

                Now, if Unity was "finished" - and EMC should rightly get the shit kicked out of them for releasing Unity a year too early - and had the forthcoming data efficiency tech, we could start taking about "fake storage versus fake storage".

                Is unity going to get its ass handed to it by a solution that does full in-line data efficiency where the workload is VDI? Sure. But VDI is a niche. On the other side of that spectrum is me, storing VMs, videos, pictures, and Windows user data all on the same device (something, I point out, that many of the startups don't support!) and getting my 1.3:1 average data efficiency ratios.

                So for me, when I run the numbers I use the ratios I see in the real world. 1.3:1. And I just don't see Unity losing to too many competitors with that ratio. And what about when the update comes down the pipe? How does this change in January when the data efficiency has been out for a few months, the arrays have been kicked around and most of us are ready to start actually considering Unity for production?

                At that point competitors don't really get that extra 30% capacity boost, and Unity is even cheaper.

                By all means, let's trot out competitors who are cheaper and do more for the same price. Not just at the extreme high end, but at the minimum entry cost and at the middling sizes of the 20TB-40TB range! I have zero love for or loyalty to EMC. Let the price and feature wars truly begin!

  2. liquidh20

    Ok, I have being working on the Unity VSA for a while. Few things to note

    - Its a VNXe. Same command like and service options as the VNXe. We all knew it was coming with the VNXe being the test bed to merge DART and FLARE.

    - MIgrations, SANCopy is free and still supported. Recommended solution is Recoverpoint/V but with looking at the underlying architecture I cannot see why you can migrate from a VNXe

    - Making the right choice. You forgot to mention that Unity actually comes with two distinct flavours of the same software, the Hybrid and the AFA. If you choose one, you cannot upgrade to the other. Hybrid limits the total amount of Flash to 25-30% I think. AFA has not support for any kind of disks besides Flash

    Looks good, but very evolutionary.....

  3. ZenaB

    Sooo, they've made a crappy NetApp?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Fairly sure NetApp already have that covered.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm glad the article points out that it's not actually hybrid, despite EMC continuously calling anything with SSDs and spinning disks in it "hybrid". It's reactive, sub-volume tiering. Nothing wrong with that: it is what it is. But it isn't hybrid.

    There are benefits to sticking with what you have. You can claim maturity, and EMC, HDS, IBM et al make a lot of money out of doing this. It's still inefficient, late 80s/early 90s technology though.

    Some might compare it with putting lipstick on a pig.

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Hi, Tintri.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Nope. Never actually used a Tintri box. Just fed up of vendors applying the latest buzzwords to their products. Software-defined is the most annoying one. Just because you have software on commodity kit, it's not software-defined if the punter doesn't get to choose the hardware. Although the term itself makes my skin crawl.

        1. klaxhu

          must just love the ignorance on some people who say they haven't seen or used something but know that stuff is sht. funnny

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Eh? Where did anyone say anything was shit (presume that's what you meant by sht)?

  5. Rob Isrob

    Versus other AFA

    I'm missing something or quite confused or both. How or why doesn't this totally mess up XtremIO uptake or where does XtremIO positioning end up? I see how it would be the product they need to compete against Pure and Nimble, this is good. Over-under on XtremIO run-rate pre and post Unity, any takers? Percent growth / shrink, thanks. But the EMC marketing for all these products that somewhat or mostly overlap must call for the ability to hold more than a dozen contradictory and competing lines of thought at the same time very painful.

  6. irrision

    It's definitely still a half-baked system. It's clear from presentations given by EMC execs at EMCworld (you can stream these for free on the EMC world site) that they were making a lot of cost assumptions around the unit having compression/dedupe which isn't going to ship until "late this year".

    I had pricing run out on a 400F unit with a drawer of 3.2TB drives and the pricing was not remotely aggressive. I could get the same usable out of an XtremIO setup with 3 years of support and recoverpoint licensing (Unity includes replication) for less than half the cost. It's obvious despite the heavy PR push that "flash is the future and Unity is your platform" by EMC that Unity isn't really the future until the future "late this year" when it comes to market competitiveness.

  7. Terafirma-NZ

    I for one (was a customer) am sick of the mantra swapping a car while doing 200mph. If I have to buy a new car stop the old one get out and get in the new one, then that was not upgrading at 200mph.

    Requiring anything more than a non-disruptive software update and at most controller by controller swap-out all while running cannot claim this feat.

    Yes this makes me sound like I am from Pure but no I'm just a happy ex EMC now Pure customer.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dell Technologies :)

    At least they will be able to sell CML SC in a few months.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    compellent versus unity versus Pure

    I agree !

    If you compare SC line (Compellent) versus Unity (or Pure), that's a no brainer :

    512k (Data Progression) vs 256MB pages (Fast VP) vs no real tiering (Pure)

    auto tiering with different kinds of SSD on SC (SLC, MLC and TLC) , none of this else where

    Raid Tiering.

    Dedup and Compression available on SC and Pure

    Cross product Replication (only on SC)

    Multi protocol sync replication (not on Unity, not on Pure)

    Cross site mirroring with automatic failover (thanks to port virtualisation)

    Almost Unlimited snapshots (being consistent, and not requiring third party....)

    I would bet my 10$ they will take the Compellent OS for the next generation machines, and put the EMC marketing on top of it..

    Especially, that the new types of ssd comming up (15 up to 60TB) will require very special handling features and the SC line architecture offers way more than any other in that context...

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