Dell, Microsoft Unify Storage

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Dell and Microsoft have created a new midrange storage server together, a machine capable of handling file and block-based application data in one box.

The PowerVault NX1950, running Microsoft’s new Windows Unified Data Storage Server 2003, covers network-attached storage (NAS) and iSCSI SAN.

Covering both file and block protocols will keep customers from needing separate machines to handle different protocols, saving them money and space in the data center. Customers can eliminate separate licensing for additional features, such as snapshots, replication and resource management.

The PowerVault NX1950 includes single or two-node cluster configurations and scales up to 45 drives with the new redundant PowerVault MD3000 SASstorage array to provide roughly 13.5 terabytes of total storage.

Clipper Group analyst Dave Reine said the system is an easily installed option that will eventually handle 33.75 terabytes once the 750 gigabyte serial ATA (SATA) drives are available next year.

“We looked at how to provide our mid-tier storage customer a product that’s going to do file and block, do it in a highly available manner that’s also very scalable and simple to use,” said Eric Endebrock, senior manager of Dell Enterprise Storage.

“Customers need a unified solution that allows them to serve up their files as they traditionally have, manage them, and run their applications off of the same device.”

To be sure, Endebrock said Dell sees this unified storage space as an incremental market it’s going after, along with Network Appliance. Endebrock said Dell sees the NX1950 competing with NetApp’s FAS250 (for single node) and FAS270 (for dual node) arrays.

NetApp has a big head start in unified storage; the vendor earlier this year created high-end and midrange unified storage devices.

But while NetApp uses its own ONTAP storage operating system for its unified arrays, Dell has chosen to go with a storage operating system from long-time PC partner Microsoft.

The Windows Unified Data Storage Server 2003 is a new Microsoft storage platform that allows NAS server and iSCSI SAN storage to be managed from one console, said Bala Kasiviswanathan, group product manager for storage at Microsoft.

Microsoft was able to create the software as the next member of its Windows Storage Server 2003 R2 after acquiring the ISCSI assets from String Bean Software last March.

Unified Data Storage Server 2003 includes capabilities born in Windows Storage Server 2003 R2, including single instance storage, full indexed text search, Windows SharePoint Services and distributed file service.

“We developed this product very closely with Dell, and they’ll be the first to market with this product,” Kasiviswanathan said. “But this product is like any in the storage family, it’s an OEM product and will be available for any OEM to use.”

While optimized for Windows, the NX1950 also works with Linux, UNIX, and Macintosh systems.

The NX1950 system is for sale today, starting at $17,000. Configurations of 4.5 terabytes start at less than $24,000. New systems with clustering and drive expansion, along with SAN gateway capabilities, will be available in the first half of 2007.

Reine said the low entry price will “reduce the acquisition burden, enabling SMBs to get in on the action with minimal cost and plenty of head room.”

To help the NX1950 reach its peak of 13.5 terabytes, Dell today also announced the PowerVault MD3000, a direct-attached storage (DAS) array with advanced snapshot and virtual disk copy tools for clustered applications such as Microsoft SQL Server 2005 and Microsoft Exchange Server 2007.

The MD3000 can be attached to the PowerVault NX1950 and other Dell storage arrays to boost the machines’ capacities. The MD3000, which builds on Dell’s MD1000 DAS enclosure, is available today, starting around $6,499.

Article courtesy of

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Clint Boulton
Clint Boulton
Clint Boulton is an Enterprise Storage Forum contributor and a senior writer for covering IT leadership, the CIO role, and digital transformation.

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