EMC ( EMC) launched its assault on the high-end storage market early Tuesday, unveiling its V-Max product, which it is touting as the world's largest storage array.

"This launch represents the most significant Symmetrix innovation since we first introduced the Symmetrix more than 18 years ago," said Joe Tucci, the EMC CEO, during a conference call. "This is game-changing; it will change the definition of what high-end computing can do."

EMC's shares crept up following the announcement, rising 6 cents, or 0.47%, to $12.76, despite a broader decline in tech stocks that saw the Nasdaq fall 0.31%.

The 2-Petabyte system offers three times the performance and capacity of EMC's previous high-end system, the Symmetrix DMX-4, and it is a clear attempt to tap into the growing popularity of cloud computing.

Speculation has mounted in recent weeks that EMC was planning an upgraded version of its Symmetrix, although the company has gone much further by adding a slew of virtualization features into the V-Max architecture. Closely integrated with VMware's ( VMW) virtualization software, the system provisions server and storage resources, it will also connect with Cisco's recently-launched UnifiedComputing System (UCS).

"It's the first high-end storage array designed for the virtualization world," said Dave Donatelli, president of EMC's storage division. "The DMX-4 is more for the physical world."

EMC is also pushing V-Max as much greener than its predecessor, citing power savings of up 20%, thanks largely to low-power, Flash-based Solid State Disks (SSDs)and Serial ATA (SATA) drives.

SSDs, which also offer faster data access speeds than traditional hard disk drives, have been gaining momentum in recent years, thanks to the support of firms such as EMC, IBM ( IBM) and Sun Microsystems ( JAVA).

However, EMC is not the only company attempting to sell high-end storage systems in a tough economy. It faces stiff competition from Hitachi Data Systems' Universal Storage Platform and IBM's Enterprise Storage Server.

"IBM's product is years old, and Hitachi's product is older than the DMX-4," sniffed Donatelli, when an analyst asked him about the threat posed by EMC's storage rivals.

Symmetrix sales account for around 20% of EMC's revenue, so there is a lot riding on the V-Max. With a starting price of $250,000, however, customers are unlikely to immediately pop out and buy the system, and EMC estimates that it will be a couple of quarters before users transition to the V-Max.

Donatelli promised that there are no immediate plans to end-of-life the DMX-4. "We will keep it around as long as we see customer demand for it, that's typically 18 months after we launch a new product."

The storage giant, like many tech companies, has been feeling the effects of the economic downturn, and announced plans to slash 2,400 jobs earlier this year.

The Hopkinton, Mass.-based firm estimates that global IT spending will fall in the middle to high single digits percentage-wise in 2009 from 2008, so it is keen to breathe new life into its high-end storage business. The company told TheStreet.com that 30 firms are beta testing the V-Max, and about 12,000 organizations were expected to attend an online launch event Tuesday

EMC has not offered any specific guidance for its March quarter, although analysts are predicting revenue of $3.25 billion and earnings of 17 cents a share.