EMC is advancing its flash strategy. The server company just took the lid off the EMC Xtrem Family of flash-optimized server and storage Relevant Products/Services products and rolled out a new line of EMC XtremSF PCIe-based flash cards.

XtremSF is server flash hardware, available in a set of eMLC and SLC capacities. IT can deploy the hardware as either direct attached storage (DAS) that sits within the server to deliver high performance or in combination with EMC XtremSW Cache server caching software Relevant Products/Services.

"Flash technology is enabling new levels of application performance and is the single biggest consideration to how customers are architecting their data Relevant Products/Services centers today," said Zahid Hussain, senior vice president and general manager of the EMC Flash Products Division.

EMC is hoping to tap into that market demand.

Driving Real Benefits

EMC also announced the release of XtremIO to select customers. XtremIO is purpose-built to leverage flash. Its scale-out architecture promises higher levels of "functional IOPS" to applications that require high levels of random I/O performance, such as OLTP databases, server virtualization and Virtual Desktop Infrastructure.

In real-world conditions, EMC said the XtremIO system exceeds 150K functional 4K mixed read/write IOPS, and 250K functional 4K read IOPS for each 'X-Brick,' and more than 1.2 million functional 4K mixed read/write IOPS, and 2 million functional 4K read IOPS when scaled out to a cluster of eight X-Bricks.

"Single-point flash solutions are an archaic approach to thinking about deploying flash. In order to drive real benefit across virtualized infrastructure where workloads are dynamic, users need to consider flash that is just as dynamic," said Steve Duplessie, founder and senior analyst of Enterprise Strategy Group. "That means no point-only solutions. Instead, users need to think about a portfolio approach to flash -- in the server, in the array, or as an all-flash array -- using intelligent software to leverage those assets. EMC has had this philosophy since it first entered the flash game, and hasn't wavered."

Too Little, Too Late?

Despite these announcements and approval from industry analysts and customers, EMC is still relatively new to the flash market. In fact, EMC just entered in 2012 when it rolled out XtremSW Cache, formerly known as VFCache. EMC called it the first step in its long-term server flash strategy.

EMC's plans are to deliver a broad, device-independent flash software suite, the EMC XtremSW Suite. EMC said the software suite will deliver more caching capabilities, in addition to offering advanced data services to flash as memory Relevant Products/Services and flash as direct-attached storage.

"Flash presents a sort of good news, bad news opportunity for EMC in that it creates another product line to sell but it threatens their legacy business Relevant Products/Services," said Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst at ZK Research. "They've made a living selling traditional disks. Still, it's good to see EMC offering these solutions because a lot of traditional vendors refuse to accept a new world is coming, then other vendors compete for their share. EMC didn't have much of a choice, but I think they could have gotten here a little faster."