EMC Hones Clariion Line With CX600

EMC Corp.'s new Clariion CX600 storage system brings 2G-bps Fibre Channel performance to midtier and high-end networks.

EMC Corp.s new Clariion CX600 storage system brings 2G-bps Fibre Channel performance to midtier and high-end networks.

Compared with the Clariion we tested about two years ago, the FC4500, the Clariion CX600 has benefited from the evolution of hard drives and other storage hardware components, as well as from the improvement of Intel Corp.s 32-bit processors. The CX600 features 2GHz Pentium processors rather than the 733MHz CPUs found in its predecessors.

The Clariion CX600, which shipped last month, can scale to 14.6 terabytes of usable capacity (17.5 terabytes of raw capacity) using 73GB hard drives. Prices range from $115,000 for 180GB of storage to $800,000 for the maxed-out configuration. We tested a small configuration, consisting of a single rack of disks.

Unlike its immediate predecessor, the FC4700 (also known as the Chameleon), the Clariion CX600 can work only in DAS (direct-attached storage) and storage area network environments. To expand the appeal of this device, EMC will probably have to add NAS (network-attached storage) and IP storage capabilities to provide services for low-end servers and workstations.

Less Downtime

Redundancy is the key feature of the Clariion CX600 storage system. Virtually every component has hardware redundancy in some shape or form, which should go a long way toward reducing downtime.

The core of the Clariion CX600 is a system of redundant storage processing boards that feature cache mirroring and are responsible for the bulk of the management chores. The storage processing boards slide into the back of the Clariion CX600, and in tests we found that we could safely hot-swap boards without problems.

Each storage processing board can carry 4GB of memory, and the Clariion CX600 supports up to 2GB of write caching—double the cache of Hitachi Data Systems Corp.s competing Thunder 9200-series devices.

Power supplies in the Clariion CX600 are also redundant, but in the event of a power outage, the Clariion CX600 forces a disk write of all the data in memory. This is a unique feature; most midrange RAID units we have seen simply rely on battery backups to preserve the data in RAM until power can be restored.

The primary benefit of the disk commit process is that, in the event of a long outage from a disaster, IT managers dont have to worry about their RAM caches battery running out.

Of course, in a storage system of this class, an effective cooling system is very important to the health of the unit. When we removed fan units from the Clariion CX600, the velocity of the remaining units automatically in- creased to compensate for that loss.

The Clariion CX600 comes with EMCs Navisphere 6.1 storage management software. Unlike previous versions of Navisphere, which had to run on Microsoft Corp.s Windows NT workstations, this new edition is Java-based and can be run from a Web browser.

Navisphere allowed us to create and configure RAID groups on our Clariion CX600, and it allowed us to carve storage units out of our RAIDs to provide capacity for our servers. This essentially provided storage virtualization from a single storage unit.

Senior Analyst Henry Baltazar is at henry_baltazar@ziffdavis.com.