Dell EqualLogic Storage Array Buying Guide

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Dell recently introduced a new line of storage gear, as covered in a recent InfoStor article. Here, we take a more in-depth look at this line of EqualLogic PS6210S all-flash arrays. In addition to hearing from Dell, Enterprise Storage Forum sought out the opinion of storage analysts concerning these products, which come heavily endowed with solid state drives (SSD) and other forms of flash.

Mark Peters, an analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group, is impressed by Dell’s latest storage portfolio. He drew attention to the language of the marketing and press materials from the company, which cited its capability to deliver “flash at the price of disk solutions.”This announcement reinforces the growing importance of solid-state technologies, not just as an add-on specialist tool, but A) as an integrated part of overall hierarchical system offerings (hence Dell’s options of all-flash, hybrid or all-disk) and B) with increasingly attractive economics,” said Peters. “While some of the newer flash market entrants are getting a lot of column inches, the big systems players like Dell are making very steady progress in the incorporation of flash (in many forms and places) into the storage ecosystem.”

Eric Burgener, an analyst with IDC, emphasized that the arrival of virtualization and super-fast processing capabilities means that flash has to be part of any enterprise storage vendor’s offerings if they wish to compete in this space. Flash, of course, can be integrated into the data center in a variety of ways – in the host, in appliances, in hybrid flash arrays, and in all-flash arrays. Many of the enterprise storage vendors have both an all-flash array and a hybrid flash array offering, whereas some startups have gone with one or the other.

Which direction is the market heading? IDC sees the all-flash array market growing to $1.6B by 2016 and the hybrid flash array market growing to $12.3B in that same time frame. So it looks like Dell was wise to offer all flash and hybrid in these latest EqualLogic arrays.

Burgener also noted that Dell’s software portfolio includes many of the data services that enterprises require to manage their production workloads effectively: RAID, read/write snapshots, integration with VSS and VADP, thin provisioning, de-duplication, compression, tiering and replication.

“Relevant product capabilities, combined with Dell’s reputation for value, have made them the leader in iSCSI-based storage for the last five years, and this announcement extends their capabilities, delivering three times higher performance than the previous generation of arrays,” said Burgener.

He also liked a new feature known as the EqualLogic Manual Transfer Utility, which makes it faster to transfer large amounts of data between source and target arrays when setting up disaster recovery configurations. Data can be dumped directly to removable storage for transfer to a remote location, an approach that can be much faster than replicating it across a network for large data sets. This would be used, he said, during the initial synchronization, not on an ongoing basis.

Dell EqualLogic PS6210 Arrays

How realistic is the claim of disk-like prices? Bob Fine, director, product management, Dell Storage, explained the logic: The EqualLogic arrays provide higher performance via a new controller and software specifically tuned for flash. This achieves up to three times the IOPS compared to Dell’s previous generation of flash-enabled arrays. So one new EqualLogic PS6210S all-flash array can provide higher performance and capacity compared with four of Dell’s new PS6210XV all-15k disk arrays. It does this while delivering 35 percent more IOPS, 8 percent more capacity, 64 percent lower latency, 75 percent less rack space and 11 percent lower total cost.

For comparable performance, one EqualLogic PS6210S would be approximately $170k list price, including support. For the same workload requirement, it would take four PS6210XV 15k disk arrays with a total list price of approximately $191k, including support. “We are able to provide a flash solution for less cost than a 15k hard-drive solution for a given workload requirement, requiring at least 10 TB of usable capacity and 30k IOPS for a typical database workload,” said Fine. “These calculations do not utilize data reduction to achieve the savings or the increased performance.”

The Dell EqualLogic PS6210 Series consists of six models:

PS6210E: This is the enterprise-class model. It comes with 2, 3 and 4 TB flash drives, 24 hot-pluggable 3.5″ 7.2k SAS drives, dual controllers with 16 GB memory per controller (all models have these controllers and a raw capacity of up to 96 TB).

PS6210X: 600 GB, 900 GB and 1.2 TB flash drives, 24 hot-pluggable 2.5″ 10k SAS drives and a raw capacity of up to 28.8TB per array.

PS6210XV: 300 GB flash drives, 24 X 2.5” SAS drives and a raw capacity of 7.2 TB.

PS6210XV 3.5”: similar to the XV but with 600 GB flash dives and SAS drives (3.5”) in order to double capacity to 14.4 TB.

PS6210S: 400 and 800 GB flash drives coupled with 24 2.5” SAS drives for 19.2 TB capacity.  

PS6210XS: 800 GB SSD and 1.2 TB SAS (400 GB SSD and 600GB SAS drives available early 2014). As this model combines 7 hot-pluggable 2.5″ SSDs and 17 hot-pluggable 2.5”, its raw capacity is 26 TB. However, it only uses 10k RPM SAS.

“Overall, these solutions are optimized for virtualization platforms and a variety of applications from virtual desktops to OLTP databases,” said Fine. “EqualLogic’s automated tiering between SSDs and SAS drives is a fit for VDI deployments by helping to prevent performance drains during potential boot storms when several hundreds of users simultaneously log-on to virtual desktops. With the EqualLogic PS6210XS hybrid array, users can host 2,000 VMware Horizon View desktops, a 2.4 times improvement over our previous generation arrays.”

Pricing for the series begins at under $50k, which includes software and three years of support. Fine added that the core audience of Dell is comprised of small and medium size environments and often IT shops with smaller staffs that might not have a storage expert in house. 

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Drew Robb
Drew Robb
Drew Robb is a contributing writer for Datamation, Enterprise Storage Forum, eSecurity Planet, Channel Insider, and eWeek. He has been reporting on all areas of IT for more than 25 years. He has a degree from the University of Strathclyde UK (USUK), and lives in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.

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