In it for the Long Run: EMC’s Object Storage Leadership

EMC’s Hopkinton, MA headquarters is right down the street from the Boston Marathon starting line. With the 2014 race fast approaching, I often think of inspirational quotes to get me Marathonout the door into the darkness, single digit temperatures, and icy streets and sidewalks. One of my favorites is from international track star and running legend, Steve Prefontaine who said, “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift”. It’s more than just saying “don’t rest on your laurels”; it makes the point that our success, talent or list of accomplishments should be respected. And we respect them by continuing to work hard and giving our best. Failing to do so is to “sacrifice the gift”. Of course, we can apply this sentiment to more than running. As individuals we should always seek to maximize our talents. Companies should too. Good companies have their share of successes. Great companies, however, recognize what made them successful and put just as much effort, if not more, into the next innovation. EMC’s leadership in object storage is a great example.

Gartner Research recently rated EMC Atmos for overall product viability for object storage platform in their report, “Critical Capabilities for Object Storage.1” EMC Atmos achieved the highest possible rating given based on capabilities as well as by use case. EMC is proud of this accomplishment and believes it reflects years of hard work and innovation. EMC pioneered object storage with the introduction of EMC Centera in 2002. Not content to be a leader in on-premise compliance archiving, EMC took object storage to the next level with EMC Atmos. Today, Atmos boasts over 1.5 exabytes sold and over 300 customers, including more than 60 global service providers and some of the largest Web-based companies in the world. We believe that EMC is a leader in object storage platforms but, once again, EMC is pushing the pace to not just maintain, but extend its leadership in object storage with EMC ViPR and the ViPR object data service.

This is not the time to relax. Another unique trait of Steve Prefontaine was his approach to competition. He was a frontrunner. He liked to get out front, push the pace and make everyone run his race. He knew that no one could beat him at his race. Similarly, EMC is pushing the pace to extend its leadership in object storage with the ViPR Object data service. The ViPR object data service provides the ability to store, access and manipulate unstructured data as objects on ViPR-managed storage. The ViPR object data services builds on EMC’s success and adds a host of new capabilities that not only support petabyte-scale but exabyte-scale:

  • Object as a universal capability – As software-only services, ViPR data services can be layered over both traditional and new storage and enable hybrid data types. With ViPR, organizations can access and manipulate unstructured data as objects on file arrays such as EMC VNX, EMC Isilon and NetApp and, in the coming months, Centera arrays and commodity hardware.
  • Highly efficient geo-storage – The ViPR object data service stores objects in append-only containers or “chunks”. This enables support for multiple concurrent writes to an object and ensures very efficient geo-storage.
  • Geo-scale index and metadata – ViPR object can quickly locate objects in a massive scale, geo-distributed object store. A key bottleneck of existing object storage platforms is the indexing and metadata databases. They are typically stored in separate databases and do not scale well. This isn’t poor design; it’s simply a matter of unforeseen data growth. We’re entering an era of multi-petabyte and even exabyte scale! ViPR handles metadata and the index differently. Rather than maintaining a separate index in a database, which can’t scale well, the index and metadata are located on the actual arrays in containers. By storing the index and metadata on the actual arrays, the ViPR object data service can locate objects in a massive scale, geo-distributed object store much faster.
  • Support for low latency transactions – The ViPR Object data service can execute a large number of user transactions concurrently with very little latency. The ViPR Object data services supports box-carting to handle workloads with high transaction rates. When an application is writing a lot of small files with high I/O, ViPR can take multiple requests together and write them as one. This improves performance by reducing the round trips to and from the underlying storage. Competitors may market similar capabilities but require a separate platform such as Flash. ViPR executes box-carting in software so there is no additional infrastructure to buy.
  • Universal API support – The ViPR object data service supports Amazon S3, OpenStack Swift and EMC Atmos object storage APIs and will soon add support for Centera CAS API. Choose your API, write your app, and run it on any ViPR-managed storage.

Among many new features, ViPR will also soon add geo-replication, geo-distribution, compliance, and support for commodity hardware. Project Nile will leverage ViPR and ViPR data services to deliver hyper-scale cloud storage and one-click access to object, file and block storage on an EMC provided commodity platform or as a software-only solution. All this innovation is great news for Atmos and Centera customers. Customers that have made and continue to make investments in Centera and Atmos will be able to extend and leverage those investments and get access to new capabilities on other platforms with ViPR.

EMC is thrilled to be recognized as a leader in object storage technology and is dedicated to extending that leadership position. We will continue to give our customers the choice and flexibility to mix software and array-level features in a way that meets any application or Big Data workload. As our customers evolve from the second platform of IT to the third, EMC will continue its object storage innovation to accelerate their journey.

About the Author: George Hamilton