EMC has announced its long-awaited cloud storage offering, a combination of hardware and software that promises to help businesses build and deliver Internet-based applications on a massive scale.
Code-named "Maui" and now known as "Atmos," the software portion is designed to manage petabytes of information across tens or hundreds of geographic locations, says Mike Feinberg, senior vice president of EMC's cloud infrastructure group. The offering is initially targeted at media and entertainment companies, telecoms, and Web 2.0 and Internet providers.
The Atmos software can either be purchased by itself and run on x86 servers virtualised with VMware's hypervisor, or it can be purchased in a bundle with EMC's "Hulk" hardware offering, which combines x86 servers with high-capacity, low-cost SATA drives. Maui and Hulk have been the source of media speculation for months but EMC is only now revealing details.
Atmos can be thought of as storage virtualisation at a massive scale. But "it's a lot more than that," says IDC analyst Benjamin Woo. In addition to enabling systems distributed around the globe, Atmos distinguishes itself with an object-based approach that makes information more useful and searches more relevant, Woo says.
"The Atmos announcement provides EMC with what I consider the next generation of storage systems," Woo says, noting that he expects similar announcements from competitors such as HP and Sun. "This allows customers to derive more value from the information they keep."
Rather than delivering storage in blocks, Atmos uses objects with user-defined metadata, making it easier to search for and retrieve information. This ability is crucial in legal discovery and other regulatory contexts, Woo says.
Atmos also provides policy-based data management capabilities determining how information is distributed and handled. "For example, information that is current and valuable may be defined as 'premium' and therefore require more copies in more locations than information that is older and accessed less frequently," EMC explains. "The older information may be compressed and retained with fewer copies in fewer locations."
Atmos also includes web service APIs with REST and SOAP interfaces; auto-managing and auto-healing features that reduce administration time along with browser-based administrator tools that allow storage to be managed from any location; and multi-tenant support allowing applications and their data to be securely partitioned while being served from the same storage infrastructure. Additional features include replication, versioning, compression, de-duplication and power-saving disk drive spin-down.
Feinberg would not say how much EMC is charging for Atmos and Hulk. The storage system comes in 120TB, 240TB and 360TB configurations. EMC made the product available to customers in June and has dozens of customers, Feinberg says. While customers could buy the Atmos software without purchasing EMC hardware, Feinberg says most customers want the combination.
Customers probably wouldn't want to apply Atmos to servers and storage they already have, according to Woo, because it is designed for environments that are dense in both computing and storage capacity.
While EMC is gearing Atmos toward huge content distribution services, such as video and photo sharing sites, Woo says the Atmos concept could be dialed down to smaller scales. Enterprises are beginning to think about building so-called internal clouds with a utility approach combining network, storage and server virtualisation, he notes.
"You will see enterprises move toward that, especially in these economic conditions," Woo says. "It's not an easy transition."