EMC’s Pravda, Chuck Hollis, chats in an interview about XtremIO’s problems. This quote from a Storage Newsletter interview may have some transcription errors, since SN is a French publication, but let’s not split hairs. Read it all to learn more.

When will you have a dedicated all-flash array?
We announced our XtremIO acquisition last year. We demonstrated it at VMworld and EMC World. It’s an all-flash design. Made of de-dupe, scale-out architecture, all flash. It fits very precise parts of the market.

Do you sell it?
No, right now we’re in what’s called ‘early access’. Test with the customers, make sure it works right. You’ll probably see it in the first half of 2013 as a general product. It’s got a very specific profile. Random IO/s, extreme performance and tiering do not work. We have a data set where everything has to run fast.

Signal intelligence
Mr. Hollis is paid well to present the EMC party line, and he’s good at it. There are reasons for everything he says.

  1. Pre-announcing the new flash array is intended to freeze the market, especially Violin Memory, Kaminario, Nimbus Data and Pure Storage among others.
  2. “Precise parts of the market” means that EMC doesn’t want customers to see it as a Symm replacement – which given their likely Xtreme pricing and need to keep VMAX billions rolling in – is simple self-preservation.
  3. It won’t ship until the 2nd half of 2013 at the earliest and may slip further. But an H1/2013 announcement is likely.

Unpacking the ship date
EMC is very good at keeping secrets when they want to. In this case they don’t want to.


By telling us that they’re intending to enter the market for pure flash arrays they are hoping to slow the competitors kicking VMAX to the curb. EMC sales hates losing deals, but since they don’t have a competitive flash array they are stymied.

If the product were shippable in Q1/2013, EMC would deploy evangelists, including Mr. Hollis, to give NDA presentations, offer test lab visits, early delivery units and so on. But the “early access” program – “test with the customers, make sure it works right” – is a beta test. Normally that would come late in the development process when announce and ship dates are reasonably firm.

The dates aren’t firm if “probably” H1/2013 is the best EMC can offer. When XtremIO was bought, EMC predicted a Q1/2013 product launch.

The StorageMojo take
XtremIO hadn’t shipped a beta when EMC bought them. It’s clear that XtremIO’s “great technology” is further from a “great product” than they’d hoped.

Thus the damage control effort.

To limit embarrassment EMC may announce at EMC world in May with “planned availability” for Q3. But given the dynamics – flash arrays have a lot of interesting wrinkles – Q4 is my forecast for shipments of a de-featured product.

What went wrong? Under-estimating market demand for all-flash arrays plus over-estimating VMAX with flash cache appeal, resulting in a reluctance to pay $2B+ for a less-mature-than-they’d-like, but installed product company like Kaminario or Violin.

The year’s delay will be costly for EMC as flash array competitors become firmly entrenched in major accounts. Fixing that will take more than spin.

Courteous comments welcome, of course. I’ve done work for Kaminario and Violin, and I’m still a little peeved over EMC threatening StorageMojo.