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EMC Adds Primary Dedupe to Unified Storage

EMC (NYSE: EMC) has added primary data de-duplication to its best-selling Celerra unified storage arrays, turning its rivalry with NetApp (NASDAQ: NTAP) up another notch.

EMC's Celerra line, which combines NAS, iSCSI and Fibre Channel connectivity, posted more than 40 percent growth last year, well above the company's Symmetrix and Clariion SAN sales.

The storage giant hopes to keep those sales numbers high despite the tough economy by adding primary dedupe and support for solid state flash drives (SSDs).

NetApp was first to market with primary storage de-duplication nearly two years ago and it also offers SSD support, but EMC claims it is first to market with native flash drives.

The new NS-120, NS-480, NS-960 and NS-G8 Gateway replace the popular NS-20 and NS-40 models. Pricing starts at $37,720 for a 1.8TB configuration with CIFS and snapshot capabilities. At the low end, EMC offers the NX4 for $20,375, and below that price point the company plans to beef up its Iomega line, said Brad Bunce, EMC's director of IP storage product marketing.

The new Celerras are based on EMC's Clariion CX4, while the NX4 is based on the lower-end AX4.

The new systems come with twice the performance and scalability, and they also include data compression, file-level retention and compliance capabilities.

EMC says its file-level dedupe and compression features can reduce file system capacity needs by half, and its de-duplication technology comes with single-click startup and automated policies for ease of use. The technology, from the company's Avamar and RecoverPoint lines, enables compression on all inactive files, then removes duplicates on the Celerra, without imposing limits on file system size or affecting functionality like snapshots.

Primary dedupe technology will be offered in the future on Clariion and Symmetrix arrays, said Bunce. Those arrays already support flash drives.

In addition to high-performance solid state drives, EMC is also offering Celerra customers low-power SATA II drives that the company says save a third on energy costs over traditional SATA drives and allow users to implement tiered storage.

The systems also come with added support for VMware (NYSE: VMW), including VMware Site Recovery Manager automated failback and VMware View composer and storage support.

Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Terri McClure said EMC has done a good job making its Celerra line easy to use while packing it with useful features. And the market for multi-protocol storage systems is a strong one; a recent ESG survey found that two-thirds of users were planning on adopting or already using unified storage. "EMC is hitting a customer sweet spot with its NAS product line," she said.

McClure said the new models are enough to keep sales strong. "EMC has some momentum with its NAS products, and doubling capacity plus the integration of flash drives and VMware vCenter plug-ins — there is a lot in this announcement and it all adds up to keeping EMC's momentum in the NAS space strong," she said.

The new Celerra models, which scale up to 960 drives and also offer high-throughput front-end configurations with up to 32 10-Gigabit Ethernet NAS and iSCSI ports, will be available in early March.

The news may have unsettled NetApp shareholders somewhat, as the company's stock fell 8.2 percent on a day that the Nasdaq ended 3.7 percent lower. EMC shares ended the day off 3.3 percent.

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