EMC SAN System Delivers

EMC Corp.'s Clariion 4500 storage system delivers enterprise-class data storage at a reasonable price.

EMC Corp.s Clariion 4500 storage system delivers enterprise-class data storage at a reasonable price.

Most IT managers who have been shopping for a SAN (storage area network) solution over the past year or so will experience some déjà vu when they see the Clariion 4500: Its Fibre Channel RAID arrays are sold on an OEM basis by many hardware vendors, including Dell Computer Corp.

From a physical standpoint, the Clariion 4500, which shipped earlier this year, isnt very different from its OEM counterparts. The major differences between the Clariion 4500 and its adopted siblings are the software tools that come with it and EMCs service and support.

Although the Clariion 4500 represents the low end of EMCs product line, eWeek Labs tests show it is one of the best products available for providing SAN capabilities for distributed computing environments.

We tested the baseline Clariion 4500 system, which is priced at $62,000 and includes redundant Fibre Channel switches, Fibre Channel RAID arrays and two storage processors. It comes loaded with 180GB of storage.

Although its price might seem high at first, the service component that comes with it makes the cost more reasonable. The Clariion 4500 comes with two years of service and support from EMC, which includes implementation assistance and 2-hour response time. (Service people show up at a site with replacement parts within 2 hours.)

IT managers looking for the best performance and availability for mission-critical data storage tasks should stick with EMCs Symmetrix or other high-end storage systems. The Clariion 4500 is recommended for up to 14 servers, but because it runs on a Fibre Channel Arbitrated Loop, IT managers should use caution when connecting a number of highly taxed servers to the Clariion 4500.

Installation on a test network was surprisingly fast and easy using EMCs Navisphere storage management utility.

Setting up the initial RAID configuration took a couple of minutes, but subsequent setups took close to an hour (because previously stored data had to be eliminated). We therefore recommend that IT managers take their time divvying up storage space.

Once the agent software was installed on two Windows 2000 servers, the Navisphere management utility did a good job of blocking the presence of the SAN components—preventing them from claiming ownership until they were assigned a storage unit.

The Clariion 4500 can interoperate with most major operating platforms, including Windows NT, Windows 2000, HP-UX, AIX and Solaris.

Disaster recovery dearth

we were disappointed that the Clariion 4500 doesnt come with any backup and disaster recovery utilities that take advantage of its Fibre Channel infrastructure. The addition of this type of application would truly make the Clariion a complete SAN in a box.

In performance tests, we simultaneously ran Intel Corp.s Iometer storage subsystem test tool on two Windows 2000 servers and found that the Clariion 4500 could easily sustain close to 100MB-per-second throughput to the servers in sequential read tests.

However, the Clariion 4500 could not attain its maximum advertised performance in our test setup because the test unit didnt come equipped with enough disk spindles to saturate the entire enclosure. The Clariion 4500 can scale up to 100 disks, but the unit we tested came with only 30 disks.

The Clariion 4500 has hardware redundancy for all major components, which should improve uptime statistics. EMC is working to create storage systems that can be upgraded without rebooting, but this Clariion unit lacks this capability. A warm reboot takes roughly 30 seconds, which could hang database applications, so IT managers should plan system upgrades carefully.