August 12, 2016 – We sat down with David van der Knaap, EMC’s Senior All-Flash Account Manager for Eastern Canada, and discussed EMC’s vision on today’s Modern Data Centre. Dave was able to share his insights on this transformation, and provide insight on how EMC is helping customers in their journey to a Modern Data Centre.

What is EMC’s vision of a Modern Data Centre?

The First step towards creating a Modern Data Centre is to explore the benefits of converged and hyper-converged infrastructure. Companies no longer need to build their own IT by selecting components from a variety of manufactures to create a heterogeneous environment and hope that everything will work together. Customers now have the flexibility of choosing converged infrastructure, where compute, networking and storage are all engineered to work together. When deployed, the focus can now be placed on the core competencies of the business, while having confidence that the infrastructure can always meet the needs of the business.

VCE VxRail

When we break down converged systems by their core capabilities, there are five main areas of focus:

First, All-Flash Storage

When we think of flash storage, the first thing that comes to mind is usually speed. It’s fast, but there are also physical benefits surrounding density and power consumption that are often overlooked. Flash storage takes up to 85% less power and physical space than hybrid arrays. Flash is one of the pillars of the modern data centre, as flash can handle the performance of current, and future applications.

Second, Scalability

When you’re looking at these cloud enabled applications that companies are building today, elastic scaling is important because it’s hard to anticipate what kind of adoption you’re going to see. You need to be able to start small and build that out organically in all areas of the data centre; compute, storage and networking. Being able to add resources on the fly and make sure that the applications you’re running on your infrastructure can scale is incredibly important.

Third, Software Defined Data Centre

Even though EMC has always been considered a hardware manufacturer, we have always been one of the largest software development companies in the world. Right now, we’re seeing innovation in the industry where there’s a lot more commodity based infrastructure with very intelligent software layered on top to seamlessly manage resources. This allows customers to control costs for specific types of workloads and allows for more flexible deployment models. We now have software-only versions of our core technologies like Unity, DataDomain, Isilon and ScaleIO. The best part is that they’re free to download!

Fourth, cloud-enablement

When you have infrastructure that you’re deploying, you want to make sure that they have RESTful APIs and if you are building applications that require infrastructure, you want them to be able to consume your infrastructure through rich API support. You also want it to be able to burst out into the cloud if you need to, because you have a finite amount of resources within the Data Centre. But being able to take your storage platform or your compute platform and being able to burst up or even tier data to a third party cloud provider is also very important to bring agility to your Data Centre and your workloads.

Fifth, security in every component

Within our architectures and technologies, from VCE hyper-converged platforms, to general storage platforms, we ensure security is built into everything that we do. From our integrated relationship with RSA, to EMC’s own Data Security practice and our data protection suite, ensuring data is secure is always top of mind. Combining all of these components, you can begin to visualize your very own Modern Data Centre.

The second step with a Modern Data Centre is the process of automation.  Whether you’re deploying VMware or Open Stack, you will want to be able to consume Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) to have that self-service catalogue –  that portal within your infrastructure to provide actual services to your users.

There are a lot of process changes that happen within the Data Centre once you go down this route. Since you’re building a lot of automation in your Data Centre, your staff can focus their attention on innovation and bringing more value to your business.

In the end, this is what it’s all about, the Modern Data Centre is about being agile, while the roles of the people change. EMC can help every single step of the way, and this what we’ve been helping our clients achieve: whether it’s the people, the processes, the infrastructure, the automation layer, we are helping guide our customers towards their modernization and efficiency goals.

What does EMC do differently than other vendors in the data storage space?

From my time at EMC, what stands out between EMC and the others in this space is the amount of innovation that we do. We have the most market share in the storage space, and we’ve always been at the forefront of innovation. With that said, innovation is a two-fold process, and where EMC is so good at differentiating ourselves is capitalizing on opportunities.

EMC XtremIO

A great example of this is when we acquired XtremIO in 2011. It’s no secret that VMAX has always been at the heart of EMC. There’s no better platform out there delivering such robust enterprise availability, it’s really the gold standard. Knowing that all-flash was the future of the data center, we were so surgical in execution with the XtremIO go-to market strategy, even if that meant cannibalizing some of our other, more established, lines of business. The reality was that we had better technology that could better fit our customer’s needs, and we weren’t afraid to pivot towards it.

Being able to do that is very difficult for companies to do, especially when it’s at the core of your business. EMC excels at doing just that, researching the trends, innovating within our space, and always having a customer-centric view of our solutions, and I think that’s the number one reason we’ve remained the market leader.

What are some of the biggest advantages and disadvantages to moving onto the cloud?

With regards to advantages, cloud enables customers to focus on their core business and the possibility of reducing the amount spent on IT infrastructure is a huge benefit to companies. For example, when we look at some of our customers in Aerospace, their purpose is to build complex flying machines. IT is a necessity because of the nature of their business, but their core business is building airplanes, not building IT. This is the same thing with all our clients, it doesn’t matter where you are, or what industry you’re in.

Another key benefit is the gains on efficiency and manageability. Customers want to have a holistic view on their infrastructure. The management of all of this has been dramatically simplified now, where it was previously so much more complex and difficult to maintain such visibility.

One caveat is that not every workload is ready to migrate to the cloud; you must evaluate its suitability on a workload by workload basis and decide what you want to leverage the cloud for.

On the disadvantages side, it’s very hard for companies to relinquish control of their infrastructures. I think it’s always been a core part of companies and it’s a major decision to hand over control and have other providers give that service to you. So you don’t necessarily control your SLA SLOs.

There’s also a misconception that there’s always going to be cost savings, but the cost savings don’t necessarily mean it’s going to be cheaper when evaluated over the long-run. Customers need fully evaluate their cloud strategy and what optimal mix is going to be right for them.

What is the VCE VxRack system, and what’s different about it versus other Converged Infrastructure systems?

Converged infrastructure, like Vblocks, will have individual server, storage, and networking components that are all managed and engineered to work as a single system. With VxRack, everything becomes Software Defined, so you have Software Defined storage options that are either done from ScaleIO or VMware VSAN, and you have more flexibility.

VCE Converged Infrastructure Family

You could have storage nodes, you could have compute heavy nodes, but the important part, is that it always follows the main tenants of the modern Data Centre, where everything is modular and highly scalable, and you’re just adding nodes as your needs grow. We’ve also recently made announcements around a platform node, called Neutrino, which allows you to easily deploy cloud-native infrastructure as a service (IaaS) within hours.

Then there is the VxRail system, a hyper-converged system better suited for smaller, environments that wouldn’t require the scale of a vBlock or VxRack system.

Where should an organization start when they are evaluating the available Data Centre solutions in the marketplace?

Always start with the workload first, figure out what the needs are, and then work your way down to figure out the required infrastructure. Infrastructure requirements for more traditional applications like SAP will be different from cloud-native applications or Hadoop-based solutions. There is no such thing as “one size fits all” in infrastructure, and this is where partners like Northern Micro and EMC can help guide customers.