EMC Vies for High-End Lead With Symmetrix DMX Series

Symmetrix DMX, the sixth-generation, high-end storage array unveiled by EMC Corp. earlier this month, is expected to reassert the company's high-performance leadership.

Symmetrix DMX, the sixth-generation, high-end storage array unveiled by EMC Corp. earlier this month, is expected to reassert the companys high-performance leadership. But most users of Symmetrix 5.5 or rival products wont rush to upgrade, saying that for now, speed isnt a big problem.

The series has five models: the DMX800, the industrys first modular design for high-end use; the DMX1000 and 1000-P, monolithic chassis for most large enterprises; and the DMX2000 and 2000-P, also monolithic chassis, for elite data centers.

The top-of-the-line 2000 series is sold with up to 42 terabytes of raw capacity, but its design limit of 2,048 slots, with mirroring, has the same approximate 140 terabytes to 150 terabytes of raw capacity as main rival Hitachi Ltd.s Lightning 9980V. EMC, of Hopkinton, Mass., has not announced a time frame for upgrading that or for upgrading DMXs 10,000-rpm drives to the 15,000-rpm speeds used by Hitachi, of Tokyo, and IBM, of Armonk, N.Y.

The DMX800 is the only model without major speed gains, but it can be installed as a conversion from EMCs top midrange array, the modular Clariion CX600. The 1000 and 2000 lines feature 16GB per second of cache throughput, 250 percent faster than Symmetrix 5.5. "We minimize the contention throughout the hot spots. We really didnt talk about this at the launch, but the 1000 and the 800 have multiple links to cache" from each of the new any-to-any architectures Fibre Channel controllers, said Brian Gallagher, senior vice president of Symmetrix hardware engineering. The redundant links ensure that high-end throughput is maintained in the 800 and 1000 models, Gallagher said.

Compared with the prior Symmetrixs bus architecture, the top four DMX models have more efficient RAID designs and slightly higher capacities in select configurations. However, "performance is always an issue, but were not going to move. Ive been very impressed with EMC, but its not anything thats going to make me do a quick jump," said Larry Eckblad, IT senior vice president for FirstBank Holding Co., of Lakewood, Colo. Eckblads Symmetrix runs 840GB with mission- critical data from 105 branch offices.

Jim Coder, senior Unix administrator at Guidant Corp., runs Oracle Corp. databases on his 6-terabyte Symmetrix SAN (storage area network), with another 4 terabytes to 6 terabytes coming next year. "Were not seeing any bottlenecks now," Coder said, at the pacemaker and defibrillator company, in St. Paul, Minn. Speed, "to me, can only be a ranking of lower importance," he said. "The other thing to consider is, what have you got in the box pushing it?" A product such as IBMs, though slower, has better processor slicing options, which helps with server consolidation and with reducing the necessary application licenses, Coder said. In addition, upgrading the SAN is a multiyear cycle, he said.

For users who upgrade, DMX costs 4 to 8 cents per megabyte, EMC officials said. In full 2000-P units, thats still a $2 million purchase, but the increased specifications make DMX cheaper than 5.5, they said.

This summer, DMX will get a Fibre Connect option for attaching to mainframes, and every product will be CIM (Common Information Model)/Bluefin-compliant by the end of the year, officials said.

Features of EMCs DMX line:

  • Multiple data paths between controllers and cache
  • CIM/Bluefin-compliant by the end of the year
  • Fibre Connect for mainframes this summer
  • Qualified for Nishan Systems Inc.s IP switches