Dell Ratchets Up Its Storage File System Software

Company unifies control of diverse set of storage arrays, tightens its data-reduction process, adds VVOLS and lowers prices—all at the same time.

Dell Storage made a rather unusual announcement May 19: A major update in its storage file system without adding anything new to its storage hardware lineup.

Historically, whenever a storage company decides to upgrade any of its software, it invariably launches a new product, or at least an addition to an existing product line. Not so this time.

The Round Rock, Texas-based company described Storage Center Operating System 7 as the culmination of a three-year R&D initiative to "redefine the economics of enterprise storage," with an emphasis on new generation, flash-based architectures.

Dell came out and said that it claims to offer the most cost-effective—or inexpensive, if you'd rather—enterprise storage per GB in the industry.

Economics for the Mid-Range

"We're claiming all-flash tiers at 45 cents per GB, and for spinning media hard drives, we're claiming under 10 cents per GB," Travis Vigil, executive director of product management for Dell Storage, told eWEEK.

Economics aside, Dell Storage Center Operating System 7 (SCOS 7) elevates and abstracts data control through increased virtualization and unifies Dell's diverse storage ecosystem. The release provides new intelligence and flexibility to help enterprises advance their infrastructures to prepare for future challenges.

The rest of the software news mostly revolves around data reduction, through a combination of deduplication and compression. These are certainly nothing new in themselves, but the company claims marked improvements now available in its new storage OS. The company has filed several patents to protect its overall data reduction process, Vigil said.

With this data reduction, SCOS 7 enables the storage of more data on fewer drives—which is what translates into the less-cost-per-GB statement. New, patented Intelligent Deduplication and enhanced Intelligent Block-Level Compression can provide up to 10:1 capacity savings (with typical results between 3:1 and 4:1), which reduces the cost of both flash and disk tiers.

Data Reduction Happens Automatically

SCOS 7 data reduction is fully integrated with the SC Series' inherent platform efficiency features, which includes auto-tiering. Deduplication and compression each are applied automatically to optimize performance and cost savings, Vigil said.

SCOS 7, as Dell folks like to call it, also contains several ahead-of-the-curve-type features. One of which, LiveMigrate, is something all storage admins can use as one point or another, according to the company.

"LiveMigrate allows data center or storage administrators to deploy multiple arrays and easily move volumes from array to array without touching a server," Vigil said. "This helps in terms of capacity balancing, performance balancing and when you need to do maintenance on an array. It enables more agility in the data center."

Implements VVOLS for First Time

Dell is implementing VVOLS, or virtual volumes, in the operating system for the first time, providing more granularity and control at the virtual-machine level in VMware environments.

Finally, the company is releasing a new controller, Dell Storage Manager, which can manage its SC, PS and FS series arrays concurrently. The controller also enables the native replication of data volumes across the different types of Dell storage, Vigil said.

Dell Storage Manager uses an HTML5-based interface. SCOS 7 adds bidirectional cross-platform replication between SC and PS arrays, and "single pane of glass" day-to-day management of both systems. Dell is the only storage maker in the midrange enterprise storage area to offer native cross-replication across product lines, Vigil said.

SCOS 7 will be delivered as a free firmware upgrade for SC Series customers with a current support contract, Vigil said. For more information, go here.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...