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Sources mutter of 'disarray' among EMC's quadruple object products

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Atmos, Centera and Isilon product merge... and EMC responds

El Reg understands that, when EMC acquired Isilon back in late 2010, Atmos and Isilon would be merged. This later, with Atmos getting Centera CAS support in mid-2011, meant Isilon hardware and software could be used for both Atmos and Centera use cases.

Our first EMC source said: "It then became apparent that merging the platforms was going to take longer than expected because important functions of each platform were developed at different layers in the software stack. The strategy to merge Isilon and Atmos (and Centera) is still in place; however, until it actually happens within the next 18 months, EMC is not willing to shitcan the positioning of Atmos nor Centera due to customers that have invested in those platforms."

The source added:

You can't go and tell AT&T that Atmos is EOL'd when EMC force fed them Atmos for 10 years before it actually started working and creating a revenue stream. Likewise, you can't go to BOA and tell them that Centera is shit-canned and the data we promised to store and protect for 20+ years is EOL'ing after just 10 years.

EMC's official blogger, The Virtual Geek, wrote:

Out of the gate (and many will jump to erroneous conclusions) there are certain use cases that today only Atmos 2.0 covers (and ViPR does not cover yet), and Centera covers (until Centera APIs merge with Atmos). That said, it’s obvious that over time, it’s in our customers' best interests (as well as those of EMC) to merge EMC object stack implementations.

El Reg's storage desk understands that Centera and Atmos are not long-term strategic products. However, merging them together with Isilon would threaten EMC's existing revenue streams right when Amazon cloud storage is growing and growing.

ViPR could be the object abstraction layer under which Centera, Atmos and Isilon could eventually be combined into one product. That would rely on ViPR becoming the management layer for all three products so that customer migrations would take place gracefully underneath the ViPR comfort blanket.

At present we're told by our first source that the overview positioning is simplistic:

  • Customer wants object - sell Atmos
  • Customer wants CAS - sell Centera
  • Customer wants NAS - sell Isilon.

Typically customers have a long list of things they want and the lists don't boil down to either object, CAS or NAS. Our source says:

"A customer opportunity can have 25 requirements of which 23 are perfect fits for Isilon, and one of the other two requirements merely mention something that Atmos can do; then EMC, the customer, and multiple divisions and overlays debate for days, sometimes weeks, on which product to sell."

Isilonic disruption and potential

Data Domain's growth is tailing off, due to the competition catching up technically and also because of the increasing prevalence of rich media sets - pictures, audio, video - which don't dedupe as well as ordinary data. The use of encryption and compression is also lowering Data Domain's effective dedupe ration, making the product less attractive.

Isilon is seen as a bit of a cuckoo in EMC's nest, according to our first source: "Isilon is cannibalizing [both] Data Domain and Atmos. And a wide variety of customers are choosing Commvault dedupe with Isilon backends which adds to the internal BRS frustration with ISD."

From this viewpoint, a dysfunctional EMC, our first source said, "is getting crushed by Amazon”, which is currently estimated to have $2bn+ in storage sales. Amazon expects a 65 per cent growth in storage revenue in each of the next 2-3 years, which will make them a top 3 player in the storage industry.

Fearful of falling behind the former booksellers, EMC keeps Centera and Atmos alive, says our first source: "Instead of loosening the reins on the Isilon product set and expediting R&D to close product gaps, EMC has chosen to overlap products which has caused way more friction and inefficiency that ever expected."

What should EMC do? Isilon has far more potential than either Centera or Atmos, and yet, says our source, the company is dithering: "Isilon is a billion dollar product line at this point and growing at 50-60 per cent. Both Atmos and Centera are sub-$100m products … EMC's reluctance to come up with better positioning [is] a frightening waste of shareholder value."

The EMC view

El Reg put our two sources' views to EMC spokesperson Ed Luboja, who responded:

It sounds like what you've tapped into is anecdotal, and coming from a non-objective source, an individual with a limited or skewed point of view. The sentiment coming from your sources isn’t consistent with what we're seeing in the mainstream selling motion of the Isilon and BRS teams – one is focused on the Scale-Out NAS opportunity, the other on Backup. Both business units have been performing well and we expect them to continue to drive growth for EMC.

We're not going to comment on anecdotal gossip, but specifically on object storage. ViPR objects will support Atmos APIs on day one and you can expect those two to come together over time and (of course) we'll take all of our existing customers with us. It's pretty straightforward to then implement the Centera API. I think Chad's EMC World blog on ViPR also covered this off.

BTW, we've never had a plan to merge Isilon and Atmos (or Centera!). We did say, when we acquired Isilon, that Isilon and Atmos combined would hit a billion dollar "Big Data Storage" run rate within 18 months.

Our source talks of a huge threat posed by Amazon and suggests that EMC has not best positioned its products to respond effectively. EMC's response would, of course, negate that idea. ®

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