"We see some immediate performance improvements in bringing data into cache," said Brandon Robinson, director of network services at Aces, a power management company that uses the current VNX and has tested the new generation. Aces handles energy trading for mostly small energy companies and also crunches data to answer questions such as whether a utility should build a new power plant or buy the power from another producer. Its data is growing by about 30 percent per year, a rate that's likely to accelerate, Robinson said.
With more usable processing power, the new system can run EMC's FAST caching software with greater granularity, moving smaller chunks of data between HDDs and flash, Robinson said. As a result, more of what gets cached is actually highly active data as it should be, he said.
In the new platform, Aces also can use all the logical paths between its servers and storage at the same time, Robinson said. With the current generation, some paths need to remain on standby in case of a failure. The update means data moves faster and the system can recover more smoothly if some of the paths fail, he said.
"In the existing generation we get a little bit of performance and a lot of redundancy, and in the new system we get a lot of performance and a lot of redundancy," he said.
Hybrid arrays are in the sweet spot for many enterprises because they are more economical than all-flash systems, and optimizing them for flash is the direction of the industry, IDC analyst Ashish Nadkarni said. EMC's ability to squeeze more performance out of the same amount of processing power could help to lower IT managers' acquisition costs, he said. "Even if your budget stays flat, you can actually acquire the same capacity for either the same or lower cost," Nadkarni said.
The VNX still can't scale out as much as some newer platforms, such as EMC's upcoming Xtremio all-flash array, because it can only have two controllers. The Xtremio gets another controller with every module that's added to it.
"The VNX is, in a way, a legacy platform," Nadkarni said. "Within the context of a dual-controller system, I think it is a significant step forward."
EMC plans to keep both platforms going forward, with the less expensive VNX being an alternative to the faster Xtremio system, EMC's Herzog said.
Also on Tuesday, EMC will announce a variety of other offerings, including XtremSW Cache 2.0, a new version of its software for on-server cache with claimed lower latency and easier management. Later this month, the company will announce the inclusion of the new-generation VNX technology in the Vblock computing, storage and networking platforms that combine Cisco Systems, VMware and EMC components.