EMC’s Unity Virtual Storage Appliance: A deep dive

EMC announced Unity, its brand new midrange product line at EMC World this week. The Unity evolution story is fascinating and you can read more about it here.

The new product line includes the UnityVSA- a software only subscription based offering that complements the Unity hardware platform. In this post I dive deeper into the benefits provided by this new solution in the exciting software defined world.

What is the UnityVSA?

The UnityVSA falls into the Virtual Storage Appliance category. Essentially it is the software intelligence that goes into storage arrays (replication, file and data services, virtual volumes, etc) bundled into a binary file.

This software can then be run on any commodity hardware or on older repurposed storage arrays to significantly reduce your storage costs. The VSA has four different flavors- a free 4TB Community Edition and EMC Supported 10TB, 25TB, and 50TB Professional Editions.

Who can benefit from the UnityVSA?
While the VSA enables a variety of use cases, here are my top three favorites:

1. Remote offices and Branch Offices:
Majority of organizations today have Remote Offices and Branch Offices (ROBO) with local IT infrastructure. While most of these remote locations have local servers running local applications and workloads, there is a need to constantly replicate data between these and a central data center. Deploying a VSA at these remote locations can allow you do this and significantly lower hardware and maintenance costs, and simplify manageability. Furthermore you can either choose the UnityVSA or one of the Unity hardware arrays at these different locations depending on your workload and still continue to replicate data between these different platforms!

2. Test Dev/ Demos/ Training
It was fascinating to try to keep up with the number of UnityVSA downloads within hours of the Unity product line being announced. These were from customers eager to check out the Unity platform and all its new features- the VSA provided a convenient and super quick way to do this. In line with this, the UnityVSA can be a great tool for non production Test&Dev environments, trainings, and demos if you are using the Unity hardware platform.

3. Low Cost Storage tier
In the new world of SSD based Flash storage, there is often a need for lower cost tiers for secondary data (think archiving and backup use cases). Depending on what kind of hardware you put below the VSA software there is a strong opportunity to significantly lower the TCO for these data storage needs.  

Customer Benefits for your Business Needs: Increased Pay-as-you-go model product flexibility, Simplicity of an All-Inclusive offering, and Reduced Acquisition Costs through a Subscription based license

My previous posts have focused on how new storage trends such as SDS and hybrid clouds have facilitated more flexible business models that ease traditional customer purchase pain points. The UnityVSA is sold in a way that leverages exactly this flexibility.

As mentioned the UnityVSA comes in two editions- a free 4TB Community Edition for non-production use cases and a Professional Edition (10/25/50TB) recommended for production use cases. This is very much in line with a try-and-buy model that lets you evaluate a product and buy it only if you like it. The ability to upgrade from any of the lower capacity points to a higher capacity at any time ensures that customer only pay for their current storage needs and have the ability to scale in the future.  

Furthermore, the UnityVSA Professional Edition comes with a one year all-inclusive subscription license and is EMC’s first ever subscription product offering! The all-inclusive nature of the license implies the elimination of the traditional murky ‘I have no idea what half of these things mean’ storage purchase order. A single price provides not only the right to use all of the VSA software licenses- iSCSI, NFS CiFS, Replication, VVols, FAST VP tiering, an HTML5 based GUI, REST API functionality  but also 24/7 access to EMC Enhanced Support services. The subscription based nature of the offering enables you to evaluate the VSA at the lowest possible acquisition cost. In fact, recognizing these costs as OpEX translates into less spending upfront, more accurate budgeting, reduced taxes on your net income, and in general smoother cash flows.

Still Curious? Check it out-
You can download the free UnityVSA Community Edition here – UnityVSA CE
Or check out the EMC supported Professional Editions here- UnityVSA PE

As always, feel free to email me or leave your comments here.

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