Data storage system vendor EMC announced July 16 that it has refreshed its entire lineup of arrays, keeping all its storage hardware and software systems on track to get “bigger, faster and better,” a company spokesperson said.
The upgrades add “new functionality and improved performance” in its high-end Symmetrix DMX series, the midrange Celerra, Centerra, and Clariion lines, and in its entry-level Rainfinity product, Barbara Robidoux, EMC vice president for storage platforms, told eWEEK.
“This is a provide-general-value-across-the board announcement,” said analyst David Hill of The Mesabi Group. “EMC wants to make sure that its customers continue to get added value from the products that EMC provides them. In other words, EMC wants to make sure that its customers are satisfied and do not stray into competitive pastures.”
What EMC did not announce, however, was the immediate availability of thin provisioning in any of the new upgrades, a hot feature that smaller companies such as 3PAR, OnStor, EqualLogic, NetApp, Hitachi Data Systems, CommVault and several others already provide.
Thin provisioning is a method of storage resource management and virtualization that lets IT administrators limit the allocation of actual physical storage to what applications immediately need. It enables the automatic addition of capacity on demand up to pre-set limits so that IT departments can avoid buying and managing excessive amounts of disk storage.
“EMC typically does not pre-announce, so it is interesting to note that it has announced thin provisioning, which will be available the first quarter of calendar 2008,” Hill said. “This move is designed to keep up with the competitive Joneses. Symmetrix customers would not want to rush into a decision on thin provisioning anyway, but this lets them get started on planning.”
The new upgrades in the products, as listed by EMC, are as follows:
- The high-end Symmetrix DMX-4 storage arrays now feature an end-to-end, 4 G bits/s (gigabit-per-second) architecture, and a new Fibre Channel point-to-point back-end for higher levels of reliability, Robidoux said. They also are the first high-end arrays to support both high-speed Fibre Channel disk drives and new low-cost, 750 GB SATA II disk drives that can reduce energy consumption, Robidoux said.
EMC also introduced a new version of its Enginuity storage operating system for Symmetrix machines. It improves performance by up to 30 percent—according to in-house benchmarking—makes local data replication up to 10 times faster, and makes synchronous remote replication up to 33 percent faster, Robidoux said.
“The latest version of the Symmetrix operating system provides performance improvements for both DMX-3 and DMX-4 customers,” Hill told eWEEK.
“EMC is making a wise move in not forcing customers to move from the DMX-3 to the DMX-4 for performance reasons. This protects current customer investments in the DMX-3, and customers can decide to add DMX-4 storage platforms if they have a particular need, such as a requirement for tiered storage.”
- The entry-level Celerra NS20 and larger Celerra NS40 systems can be deployed in NAS (network attached storage) and SAN (storage area network) environments using iSCSI or Fibre Channel connectivity, Robidoux said. Celerra also supports the new 750 GB SATA II disk drives.
- The entry-level Rainfinity appliance for file archiving enables policy-based file management and can automatically move and retrieve files across an entire NAS infrastructure, Robidoux said. It works with Celerra, other NAS systems and Centera content-addressed storage (CAS) systems.
- The new Centera CAS (content-addressed storage) system features four low-power nodes with low-power processors and chipsets, adaptive cooling and more efficient power supplies to reduce energy consumption—while also offering 50 percent more storage capacity per node using new 750 GB SATA disk drives, Robidoux said. The result: a Generation 4 LP node reduces power and cooling requirements by 67 percent per terabyte, according to in-house tests.
- The Clariion CX3 networked storage system incorporates more functionality with the addition of new built-in security capabilities that provide customers with improved access control and expanded compliance and audit features, Robidoux said. Clariion CX3 now offer support for native iSCSI remote replication.
A new version of the Flare operating system, which can be deployed on all Clariion CX3 systems as well as previous generation CX300, CX500 and CX700 systems, enables RAID 6 protection and active/active failover, Robidoux said.
EMC, based in Hopkinton, Mass., has provided a “good-enough refresh” to satisfy its customers, Hill told eWEEK.
“A lot of useful functions and features have been added to a number of products, and customers of those products should be able to take advantage of them,” Hill said. “It is not a huge refresh—i.e. a blockbuster, as there is no single announcement that has Extra! Extra! written all over it—but those types of announcements are relatively rare.”
EMC continues to make life harder for the competition by making more investments across more product offerings at every level of the storage spectrum, said Steve Duplessie, founder and senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group.
“At the same time, they make it easier for a customer to see the value in a one stop shop. The commitment to innovate across the whole portfolio means users arent forced into a one size fits all solution. Its pretty impressive,” Duplessie said.
One prominent competitor had a personal message for EMC in his reaction to the news.
“Welcome to the party, its about time,” Hewlett Packard storage area network director of marketing Kyle Fitze told eWEEK. “We really think that theyre playing catch-up on some key feature gaps theyve had in their product line, both at the high-end and in the midrange.”
HP refreshed its own storage system line last month with features designed to reduce power and cooling costs in data centers by as much as 50 percent.
“Related to performance, its always interesting that EMC is allowed to claim performance improvements when they wont participate in any third-party performance benchmarking,” Fitze said. “We still ask EMC, and even customers whove talked to EMC, to show us the proof behind those claims. We have yet to see them.
“They even require their customers in the signing of their purchase contracts to agree not make any sort of claims about the arrays [performance] to the public,” Fitze said. “Its interesting that theyre able to get away with that kind of gag order with their customers.”
In response, EMC spokesperson Colin Boroski said that “EMC does not participate in SPC [Storage Performance Council] benchmarks, as they are not indicative of real world environments or an objective assessment of a systems capabilities handling the random workloads that are common in customer environments.
“Vendors, for example, can turn off features and functions to maximize their performance during the tests that would never be turned off in a real world application,” Boroski said. “When quoting SPC results, vendors do not have to indicate what they disabled. So, vendors can turn off all RAID function, turn off all HA functions, turn off all data integrity functions, etc. in order to look good and that does not provide useful or beneficial information to anyone except the vendor.”
“We work with customers every day who ask us to run specific benchmarks based on their unique requirements, and we are more than happy to accommodate,” Boroski said.
About the customer “gag order” asserted by HPs Fitze, Boroski simply said: “This rumor is false.”
The new Centera Generation 4 LP nodes are generally available, and the Rainfinity File Management Appliance will be available later this month, Robidoux said. The new Symmetrix DMX-4 series, new version of Enginuity, new Celerra NS20 systems, Celerra multi-protocol NS40 systems and new Clariion enhancements will be available in August, Robidoux said.