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Originally announced by EMC in April, the fully automated storage tiering (FAST) vision ‘to revolutionize the way storage is managed’ is now ready for prime time, says Scott Delandy, senior product manager, EMC.

He likens today’s storage environment to that of a jet. "If you think about aviation and flying jets, years ago you had a pilot flying a jet. Today, it’s the jet flying the pilot. A human isn’t fast enough to handle all the changes."

EMC’s FAST technology provides the best of both worlds, says Delandy, the performance benefits of flash drives, which can increase application performance by up to 800 percent for active data, with the cost benefits of SATA drives, which can lower cost-per-megabyte by as much as 80 percent for inactive data.

"What we’re doing with FAST in this release is we’re making it easy for people to adopt this kind of storage," he says. For example, a management tool like FAST Wizard can let an administrator get FAST up and running in as little as 10 minutes. "You can buy back a tremendous amount of storage administration time."

According to EMC, an average system configuration with a combination of EMC FAST technology, enterprise flash drives and SATA disk drives, can deliver higher service levels while reducing storage acquisition costs by at least 20 percent and lowering storage operational expenses by 40 percent.

Analyst Charles King, Pund-IT Research (, believes this is an important next step, following the initial announcement last April. "The concept of intelligent (i.e. automated) storage tiering has been an intriguing issue. Now it’s available, though in limited form (LUN-based initially. Block capabilities are coming next year)."

While there are a handful of vendors out there with similar solutions, including Compellent, Symantec (Veritas) and 3Par, King says EMC is the only major vendor with this technology and if it catches on, other tier-one vendors like HDS, IBM and HP will have to play catch-up. "If it delivers as advertised, it should allow companies to migrate data to the correct storage tier much more easily and efficiently than current solutions. That’s a big deal for large enterprises."

FAST will also be important in cloud computing, adds King. "The way those systems payoff (for SPs and other cloud providers) is to be managed as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible. If cloud SPs don’t use EMC’s FAST or something like it, they risk wasting money unnecessarily."

Delandy agrees that FAST and the ability to do federation in the cloud can play a big role in the cloud infrastructure. "The ability to move to the cloud will give customers new options, new flexibility to be able to respond to business requirements much faster."

Available immediately for new and existing Symmetrix V-Max and CLARiiON CX4 networked storage systems, and Celerra NS unified storage systems, FAST capabilities include the ability to create and apply tiering policies to automate the control, placement, and movement of data within the storage system; built-in software to monitor, analyze, and respond to changes in the value and access patterns of the data to self-optimize storage resources; policies to define tiering rules to support service-level requirements automatically or with administrator approval; and management capabilities that automate the end-to-end discovery and reporting of applications to storage tiers.

This is a great opportunity for EMC’s channel partners to go in and provide a solutions focus, and not just push boxes, says Delandy."It’s going to enable them provide more of a solution-based approach but also help them reduce their customers’ costs."