EMC Turns Up the Power With Symmetrix 6.0

Long-awaited upgrade will provide users with a faster and slightly more affordable option for heavyweight enterprise storage.

After focusing exclusively on software and midrange hardware last year, storage vendor EMC Corp. is shifting back to high-performance gear with the release of its long-awaited Symmetrix 6.0.

EMC will debut the high-end platform Monday at an invitation-only event in New York, according to EMC employees who asked not to be identified. The updated system will provide users with a faster and slightly more affordable option for heavyweight enterprise storage. But certain standard features, such as FICON (Fibre Connection) connectivity, will still have to wait.

The updated Symmetrix technology is key to retaining users as EMC, of Hopkinton, Mass., goes head-to-head on high-performance gear with rival Hitachi Ltd. and its Lightning 9980V, users and analysts said.

"Speed is of the essence," said Donald Janosik, senior network engineer at Ohio Savings Bank, in Cleveland, which uses a 1.5-terabyte Symmetrix 8430 unit in each of its two data centers. Janosik said hes eager to see EMC improve its cache architecture and its ability to RAID-enable large drives. Switches with higher port counts and smaller physical footprints are needed, along with support for Cisco Systems Inc.s new switches, he said. The bank considers moving to Hitachi or IBM "all the time," said Mark Gibaldi, director of IT at OSB. "But of course thats offset by current investment."

"Were transforming our entire product line," said EMC spokesman Dave Farmer, who declined to confirm details of Symmetrix 6.0. "This quarter, well address the high end. Youll see new trajectory in performance, availability, functionality and economics."

Use of Seagate Technology Inc. drives will boost Symmetrix 6.0s capacity to "the 100-terabyte range," said one industry insider who asked not to be named. Capacity for the new gear had been expected to reach 144 terabytes; that size may still be reached with point releases.

Symmetrix 6.0 will also boast a 128GB cache, twice the size of its predecessor, and a throughput speed of 13GB per second to 15GB per second, sources said.

One expected feature missing from Version 6.0 is standard FICON connectivity to mainframes. That feature will come in an upgrade this spring, sources said.

This latest iteration of Symmetrix will not tie directly to EMCs ongoing partnership with Dell Computer Corp., but that relationship is paying off for EMC on the high end. EMC will switch its traditional SCSI internal architecture and drives with Fibre Channel equivalents in Symmetrix 6.0. While Dell has rights only to EMCs midrange Clariion and NS600 network-attached storage, the use of Fibre Channel in those systems—as well as in Symmetrix—means cost savings on components, analysts said.

Last year, there were some 50,000 Symmetrix systems installed worldwide, ranging in price from $200,000 to $2 million, EMC officials said.

In addition to the Symmetrix rollout, EMC is planning a midyear announcement of a backup appliance using low-cost Serial ATA disks, sources said.