Just another V-(per)Plex(ed) post

Well, EMC announced V-Plex during their EMCWorld.

IMHO, It’s the storage federation seen from the EMC point of view: adding a lot of complexity with little value to screw the customers as much as possible. Seems to me the same old story of the last years: “this is federation V1 (like FAST V1) it isn’t nothing special but it is branded from EMC so it’s cool”, 😀

In the latest hours I read a lot about V-Plex (herehere, here, here and here are only few examples) but my first impression is that EMC hasn’t achieved an outstanding result, they only reinvented hot water (i.e.: SVC from IBM, V Series from NetApp and USP-V from HDS) adding some interesting capabilities like “VMs Teleporting” that you can also find embedded in Compellent’s Storage Center with its Live Volume (who’s been at this year’s C-Drive knows what I’m saying.).

Why V-Plex is wrong.

V-Plex is another layer of Very high Complexity (probably the name comes from here), because you need to place one (or more than one) new appliance between your SAN and your hosts to get this virtualization layer. This approach has some advantages and you can find all the related white papers and documentation from many vendors, especially if you want to reuse old and non virtualized stuff but, at the same time, a lot of disadvantages:

  • You need to acquire new hardware, support and services;
  • You need to maintain both old and new hardware (support, services, etc.)
  • You need to train people;
  • You need to hire consultants and/or EMC professional services ($$$$$);
  • You need to avoid constraints and limitations in feature interoperability!
  • You need a lot of human work: migration to a V-Plex based infrastructure is not automatic!
  • You need more space, power, cooling in your datacenters;
  • and so on…

The final picture is quite interesting but the cost to paint it is very high! Why don’t integrate these features directly into all your families of existing arrays? Compellent does!

TCO of a “v-plexed” SAN grows a lot without adding much if compared to other solutions. 🙁

Some questions come to my mind (but I admit that I need to further investigate before a final comment): My thoughts are about the fact that V-Plex is a virtualizer with a pretty nice cache (indeed, the caching technology doesn’t come from EMC labs but from an acquisition, namely Yotta Yotta) but you need to understand very well some basics before deploy this new object on top of your existing SANs, the questions are too many for this post but there are terms that never appears in the white papers: thin provisioning, snapshots capabilities, different raid levels (i saw only 0 and 1), automated tiered storage (FAST in EMC parlance), all the replica capabilities, etc…

In other words Virtualizers are very useful to harmonize your SAN infrastructure but if it is only a cache you will add complexity to complexity cutting down the advantages and adding costs!

V-Plex isn’t Federetion (or private cloud enabler), it’s more a Virtualization Appliance!

In the last days we’ve seen interesting posts from the blogging community about storage federation and one of the first point of discussion was on the fact that an appliance on top of storage doesn’t mean federation. If you imagine federation as a bunch of arrays working together as a whole system managed by a single pane of glass you are not thinking to V-Plex.

V-Plex is a second generation virtualizer/federator experiment generation, after the failing InVista, and it will be better than its predecessor for sure, but I don’t think it is a good solution for a couple of reasons:

  • TCO and TCA are very high: The cost of a base appliance starts at 77K$ and I’m very curious to know the real expense for the total solution delivered on two data centers, training costs, maintenance, professional services, migrations to add on top of your existing infrastructure.
  • Real Value: As of today I haven’t perceived the real value of the solution! Non disruptive LUN movements? It can be done for a fraction of that price with a feature of the Compellent Storage Center called Live Volume.

The viable alternative

V-Plex is an high-end solution with a lot of maturity problems and high costs, but EMC is targeting the right point: there are some needs to be addressed in modern environments. EMC can’t do this with its actual storage array proposition so they are trying to sell you an appliance to do that, Compellent has smarter arrays and they can do what you need just by enabling a software feature:

  • Non disruptive Lun migrations between arrays;
  • Virtual machines migrations (not only VMware but also Citrix and Hyper-V);
  • Disaster avoidance;
  • On-demand load balancing;
  • Zero downtime site maintenance (i.e. power outages) and server maintenance;
  • Enablers to build a cloud computing architecture

V-Plex target is higher? I don’t know but who cares?

Live volume solves 99% of your pain points, it is easy to use, fully integrated, without hidden costs and at a small fraction of the cost!

It’s a good solution also if you are the owner of CX arrays: swapping Clariion CX arrays for Compellent Storage Center costs less than the acquisition and implementation of V-Plex. 😀

We will do other posts, in the near future on live volume, it’s an amazing feature and I think people need to know the difference between complex and smart storage management!

You will find other informations o Compellent web site very soon! Here you can find the first infos from Compellent.

So why buy a V-Plex ? when you can have Compellent ?

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