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Flash Made Simple – A Customer Experience with EMC’s Unity All Flash Array

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I’ve spent tons of time looking into this product and formed my own opinions.  From a vendor perspective I’m expected to to be biased, and I am.  I wouldn’t have joined the company if I didn’t believe in the strategy.

To try to “un-bias” my opinion I started calling customers.  Matt Gustafson is an incredibly seasoned storage engineer with loads of experience in EMC and Non-EMC platorms, so when he told me about his experience in setting up Unity I was impressed.  More importantly, the product impressed Matt.  Here is our discussion in its entirety.

Q:  What was the impression of the setup?

A:  Obviously – very simple to setup.  The automated tool that runs on your laptop was genius.  The whole thing took less than 10 minutes.  It takes longer to configure a physical server’s raid controller!

Q:  How was the physical installation?

A:  Super easy.  Oh man, I took my time, followed the detailed installation guides, made sure cable routing was perfect.  It took about an hour.  Just as easy as racking a server.    The packaging was really nice, it looked like something you buy at Best Buy.

Q:  How easy was it?

A:  Well, there are different levels of suck.  Some platforms you need a team of customer engineers.  Some platforms you need at least one if not two.  Some are difficult, but they’re cool so you deal with the pain.  Some are high stress.  This was easy.

Q:  How was the physical setup?

A:  As easy as it comes.  Drop the controller in the rail, add fiber and management ports, add the DAE and you’re done.

Q:  Operationally, how was the process?

A:  Much easier than every EMC platform I’ve used.  Three clicks, no math, no balancing.  This will change the way a lot of people look at flash.  It will totally change our management’s view of flash.  It is no longer the cutting edge people who are interested.  I see it like the smartphone in 2007.  Once people saw the clear advantage there was mass adoption.  Unity will lead the charge – it is so good, so cheap.  Pile them up for general purpose workloads and it will be easy for people without storage teams to manage it.  Wintel and Virtualization teams can manage this with ease.  Keep the fancy stuff for workloads that need it!

Q:  What about automation?

A:  As automation gets better, more and more of what took up a storage admin’s time will be done automatically.  This isn’t like a dual controller array that was hard to manage if you weren’t a storage guy.  If you don’t want people sitting around doing boring storage management stuff, then this is the platform for you.

Q:  What impressed you about the platform’s software stack?

A:  I love the job task execution scheduler.  I can see what it is doing in the background.  That is new in anything I’ve seen in the midrange.

The built in reporting, amazing.  It had the VNX monitoring and reporting capabilities the week it came out.  This is BUILT IN to the product.  I can’t find any missing functionality that I would actually miss.  I’d rather use the built in performance analysis tools than anything on previous non-flash VMAX systems I’ve used.

The VMware integration is really good.  I’ve never seen integration on the array outbound as good as this.  You can spin up datastore, do re-scans… you get ViPR like integration built in, and better than a vCenter plugin.  The VMware admin doesn’t need to know what they should or shouldn’t do before starting a task.

The net of my evaluation is:  this doesn’t feel like a first generation product to me.


That concluded our interview.  Matt, thanks so much for providing feedback and allowing me to share our conversation with a slightly larger audience.

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