Let me say… as a person who’s been involved with storage for a long time, I did not enjoy writing this. But it had to be written.
Right. This is a rant. But let me tell you…. it’s worth a read.
I can’t quite believe I’m writing this. I mean the title just doesn’t make sense…. EMC are famed in the storage industry for their enterprise class products. Surely they, of all people, wouldn’t ship a tier 1 product that’s such a mess! But they have.
There’s just no doubting that EMC have shipped a tier 1 storage array (XtremIO) with code that was a long long way off being ready for the enterprise.
The big issue at the moment is that existing EMC XtremIO customers are staring down the barrel of a destructive firmware upgrade (code version 2.4 –> 3.x). Yes destructive! Meaning if you leave your data on the system while EMC perform the upgrade, you get a free data wipe as part of the service!
Clearly not what you want for your data. So the alternative is to evacuate all of your apps and data off the XtremIO, upgrade the firmware, and then copy all of your data and apps back. And if you just have your techie hat on and say “well….. there are products and services to do that”…. yes I agree. But put your business hat on for a second…… You’ve just deployed your mission critical business app(s) on the XtremIO, and now you have to go to the app owner (these guys all already think the IT department costs too much money and is a waste of space) and ask him/her for an outage window. Have fun with that!
And if you say “well….. mission critical Tier 1 apps would surely have in-built HA, just take one half down, upgrade it, and then upgrade the other half….”. Fair enough. But that HA architecture is there to protect the app. Asking to take half of it down – for a lot of hours – is gonna result in some strong language from your app owner. Let’s face it, an upgrade like this is huge co-ordinated effort, potentially involving – storage, DBAs, OS guys, app owners, the business, business partners, and EMC. That’s a sizeable piece of work, and in many cases will require a Project Manager. And it’s almost certainly a piece of work that you’ll kick off at 11:01pm on Friday night with the whole of Saturday as the Change Window, and all of Sunday as contingency. And don’t forget the testing once its all back up on the new code.
And if you’ve got HA, do run on the new code one one array for a week, and then repeat everything again the following weekend for the other array? Or do you risk doing it all in one weekend – I really miss decisions like those.
Oh, did we mention it’s a major rewrite. So that automatically triggers huge app testing, huge risk, and huge scepticism form the business – on a platform you’ve only just convinced them to migrate to. And in their opinion, anything that even remotely goes wrong after the upgrade is the fault of the XtremIO. Nightmare!
Now the issue behind all of this is that EMC were desperate to bring a product to market in the AFA space. They couldn’t risk others gaining any market share on them. So, they took a half-baked product, employed their best-of-breed sales force, and relied on the respected EMC badge to lure customers. And shame on them. In the name of market share they have crapped on the EMC badge and kicked their customers in the crotch.
I challenge anyone to tell me it isn’t so!
The Smoke and Mirrors Response
And I don’t buy any of this rhetoric from Chad Sakac. This is pure smoke and mirrors. Chad goes on about not listening to “people who go negative“, but instead listen to people “who disclose warts“. Well…I could be wrong on this one…. but…. I believe the wart was disclosed by a customer. Good on EMC for owning up once it was brought to light (not that they had a choice). But I honestly don’t think they disclosed the wart in the way he is insinuating. Could be wrong on that one.
Also, all of Chad’s talk about disruptive change being required to implement new features and the likes. Sorry, but that disruptive change was buying and implementing the XtremIO! Not two subsequent disruptive code upgrades!
And then saying “if customers want to sit tight and avoid the upgrade, they are entitled to do exactly that – they will continue to enjoy all the XtremIO awesome they are loving“. What? As soon as the guy next door has the same product as you, but his/hers goes twice as fast and stores more than twice as much data as yours (coz he/she is running 3.0 of the code and your stuck on 2.4)… well…. all of a sudden what you’ve got is anything but awesome. If that wasn’t true then we’d be calling all reliable old and outdated technology “awesome” – but we don’t , we call it “old and outdated”.
Why for some EMCers is everything so facemeltingly awesome? Reminds me of the story of Peter and the Wolf…. when everything is always facemeltingly awesome, we end up not believing them when something actually is.
And comparing this situation to Data ONTAP 7-mode and c-mode. That’s comparing apples and oranges if I’ve ever seen it. ONTAP c-mode was like 10,000 years in the making and was signalled way ahead of time. In fact 7-mode and c-mode are pretty much two different products, and NetApp ran them in parallel and continued to feature develop both for a long time. And early on, 7-mode was more feature rich than the newer c-mode. And I’d punt that most NTAP customers moved to c-mode with new HW. None of that is true with XtremIO, none of it. It’s a pointless comparison.
Changes like this should simply not be happening on a brand new product, that is of course, unless that product is pre-GA.
It Gets Worse
What do people who are currently thinking of buying XtremIO do?
On the one hand you don’t want to be running mission critical Tier 1 on a .0 release of code that has more critical rewrites than most .0 releases! But on the other hand you don’t want to deploy on 2.4 and be planning a major upgrade project before the PO’s out of the door. We call that a rock and a hard place!
But the rock gets even bigger and harder………
XtremIO on code 2.4 is stable and fast (but lacking some fundamental “enterprise” capabilities). But 3.x is a major rewrite. I think Chad said the on-disk layer and the metadata layer were both getting major overhauls. So what’s to say it even works the same after the upgrade? May be one of the reasons it was so reliable and fast is because it didn’t really do anything clever, or was dependant on the old design. With 3.x of the code we’ve a got a big re-write of critical components, and we’re feature adding. Suddenly it doesn’t even look like the same product any more – remember, it’s all about the software these days – and the XtremIO software is changing changing changing!
The Huge Shame
Chad mentions in his blog that XtremIO is the “fastest growing revenue storage product EVER“. Fair play. This is thanks to the genuinely market leading EMC sales, and the genuinely excellent EMC badge. It’s just a shame it’s that same badge that this product has just crapped all over!
I know the storage world is changing, but EMC shipping product like this!!!!! Please no!