If a well-funded startup came to you and asked you to bet your business on a brand-new architecture and product, what would you say? “I’ll wait” is a likely answer.

So why is it any different when that start up product comes from EMC? You could argue that they have industry-leading engineering design and test practices – not sure it’s true, but you could argue it – and you could point to their sales and support organizations as reasons to believe that all will be well.

But the real question is not how well EMC reduces the risk of going with a new product. The real question is how does the risk of their product compare to other products that have been in the market for years and have thousands of installed units?

It is in the nature of storage engineering that every new product is essentially in extended beta. You’ll see one set of problems using 10 systems, another set with 100, and yet another with 1,000. Squash each set of bugs and eventually you get a solid product. There are no shortcuts.

Compared to these veterans named below the XtremIO product is very young. But even if you love EMC there are good reasons to check out the competition.

Has EMC legitimized the flash array market?
The bastards say welcome. Depending on what you find compelling about XtremIO here are StorageMojo’s top five alternatives.

Mature scale-out
Hewlett-Packard’s 3PAR product line is hard to beat on maturity. The engineering began over a decade ago and has gone through several generations. 3PAR was engineered from the ground up with eight nodes, has been selling into enterprises for years and is supported by HP’s global service organization. They have all-flash and mixed configurations.

Consistent low latency
Consider Violin Memory. TPC-C benchmarks show that their latency is not only very low on average but is much lower at the 90th percentile.

They also have a good answer to the problem of slowing flash performance as feature sizes decrease. Unlike hard drives increases in flash storage density do not translate into higher performance – in fact, the reverse is true: flash gets slower as feature sizes shrink.

SSD-based array
Another all-flash array to look at is from Pure Storage. Based on published reports EMC is particularly concerned about Pure, giving their sales people specific anti-Pure talking points.

That is common when a competitor is making inroads. Be a good customer and check out Pure yourself so you know exactly what dangers you are avoiding.

Big iron features and management
HDS has taken a different approach to flash by enabling customers to embed either a partial or total flash array behind their mature VSP controller. This is not to be confused with EMC’s original addition of an STEC flash drive to the VMAX, which was widely derided and not very successful.

Simplified management and good performance
As several commenters pointed out, performance is often not the driving requirement. If that is true in your case, take a look at Nimble Storage.

Their clusterable appliances include always-on wire-speed compression, disaster recovery and backup all in one low cost and easy to deploy appliance. And you avoid the hassle of separate tiers for flash and disk.

The StorageMojo take
Even if you decide to take a chance on EMC’s new product, investigating a competitor will help ensure you get EMC’s best possible price. EMC’s competitive allowances – up to 90% of the retail price – will win you the grudging respect of your finance group and ensure your EMC sales rep doesn’t take you for granted.

But you never know: you may find one of these other products is actually a better fit as well as being more mature. Where’s the downside in that?

The rate of change and the storage industry has been accelerating for the last 10 years. If you are not broadening your product scanning horizons, you are missing the most important changes in the industry.

Comments welcome, as always. I have done work for or been gifted with trips from most of these vendors sometime in the last several years. It’s amusing that Pure has a negotiation kit similar to something StorageMojo suggested a few weeks ago.

Question: who else should XtremIO prospects look at?