Let’s Build a Data Center – The Power of a Strong Portfolio

Recently we embarked on one of the scariest and most rewarding projects I ever worked on at EMC…to build a functional data center in less than 48 hours and ensure that our live provisioning challenge (aka The Jeremy Burton Challenge) against Jeremy Burton, EMC’s President of Product and Marketing, run smoothly on a live VMAX system at EMC World. What can go wrong!

It was a project that was all about teamwork to deliver nothing short of a face-melting awesome customer experience.  To that extent, I had the honor of working with some of the finest EMC’ers I know, from different parts of the business, different functional groups, and different coasts. In the end, we were able to spend quality time with customers who in turn could experience the power of the portfolio in one confined space. Where can you bring your beer into a data center, open the cab of the VxRACK, and ask all the questions you want?

Didn’t make it to EMC World? Were there and would like a recap? Either way, come on in and Take a Tour!


Preparation Time and Setup
If you ever want to see people with their hair on fire then this is a good exercise. The amount of planning (and angst) that goes into this exercise is mind-boggling. Anything goes ranging from power requirements, weight, IP addresses, shipping, staffing, creating a script you know will never be used, and thinking about the possible traffic flow in the booth.
EMCW-DCAs you can imagine it took a village behind the scenes to make sure that the proper equipment is racked, stacked, and ready to ship to Vegas. Our execs had confidence that we could run The Jeremy Burton Challenge, on a live VMAX3. The actual challenge was to provision storage faster than Jeremy’s 11-year-old son who was able to provision a VMAX in just over 20 seconds). We can skip the part about the power outage 2 hours before the exhibit area opened but the challenge worked and the winner provisioned VMAX3 storage in less than 14 seconds!

3 Days of Non-Stop Customer Conversations
Going into this exercise I had no idea how much of a crowd magnet this space would be. Customers loved being able to see the equipment and dive into specific questions. This was the perfect place to discuss the EMC Portfolio!

Customers are looking to simplify and automate their IT and having the right storage for the right workload is a good place to start! EMC announced XtremIO 4.0 delivering a free software upgrade, which brings many enhancements including performance, scalability, and enhanced data protection based on RecoverPoint. XtremIO garnered many questions and customers loved sticking their heads into the tightly organized cabinet to understand the x-brick architecture.

VMAX3 and its Service Level Based provisioning turned customer perceptions up side down. They unanimously loved it! Even customers who already have a VMAX3 couldn’t help but get some stick time with Unisphere. Through FAST.X and support for CloudArray, customers have a path to the public cloud. Folks were able to see the technology in action in the Hand On Lab Area.

I caught quite a few folks not really able to figure out the vVNX bezel. You could see the wheels spinning. Pointing to other virtual editions of our products including the virtual Data Domain highlighted the EMC strategy and put things into perspective. To recap, EMC announced the vVNX Community Edition. Over 1,300 vVNX downloads in the first day are testimony for our software-based storage strategy. Another customer was intrigued by the ability to satisfy their file sharing requirements for 20+ offices with an equal number of 2U VNXe’s. Learn more about the affordable  All-Flash version of the VNXe3200 now available.

Converged Infrastructure – customers coming through the data center were also excited about the new VxRACK and were pondering on the use cases it could address. Resiliency of these solutions is key and the ScaleIO demo was both eye opening and continued operations even upon a node failure. Others more interested in DevOps use cases were intrigued by the design and density of ECS with its ability to scale to 6PB in a single floor tile. Isilon had a lot of traction specifically around the HDFS use case.

We sometimes forget about the network but clearly customers saw the Connectrix prominently displayed in the data center. Without a reliable network things like The Jeremy Burton Challenge would never work. And on these three days that was a mission critical application!

Data Protection Everywhere – every customer that spent time in the data center had requirements around data protection and availability. The combinations of backup software and target are endless and many use tape. Data Domain, one of the most commonly deployed solutions, announced some exciting new features including a virtual edition labeled Project Falcon. ProtectPoint brings tighter integration between primary storage and the backup ecosystem to provide faster, more efficient backup. It was an eye opener and we were able to send folks to the ProtectPoint Hands-On-Lab area for some stick time. And also here we want to make sure we provide customers a clear path to the cloud with CloudBoost.

All in all, this was an amazing experience not only for the EMC team involved but certainly for customers.  It allowed us to discuss how to support key IT initiatives with a hands on experience as opposed to presenting point product.

About the Author: Stefan Voss