Dell Offers Solid State Drives, New EMC Storage Array

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Dell (NASDAQ: DELL) is sprucing up its data storage product line with new solid state drives (SSDs) and the latest unified storage array from EMC (NYSE: EMC).

The new solid state drives are part of a major upgrade of Dell’s EqualLogic iSCSI storage line, which the company acquired a year ago.

The flash drives are a particularly interesting offering. At $25,000 for eight 50GB drives, with chassis, dual controllers and software, and $35,000 for 16 SSDs, the $43.75 to $62.50 per gigabyte is well below the $200 to $300 per GB that competitive enterprise solid state offerings typically cost.

The drives, from Samsung, may not have the performance of drives from STEC (NASDAQ: STEC), but Dell senior manager Travis Vigil said the drives are a “more cost-effective drive” that still gets customers into solid state performance.

Vigil said STEC quotes raw numbers of 30,000 to 40,000 IOPS, while Dell has seen 4,000 to 6,000 raw IOPS on the Samsung SSDs depending on workload.

But Vigil said raw drive performance numbers are misleading. “For competitive architectures, you actually share the same bandwidth/controller for the STEC drive with SATA and FC/SAS drives,” he said. “Thus, you have contention and performance impacts.”

With the EqualLogic arrays, “you dedicate controller and bandwidth resources to a set of eight or 16 SSDs, and with our scale-out architecture you can scale performance and capacity linearly as you add additional SSD nodes into your SAN,” Vigil said. “Thus, in real-world performance, EqualLogic can guarantee your SSD performance without contention and scale that performance by adding additional nodes while at the same time coming in at one-third the dollars per gigabyte.”

Objective Analysis analyst Jim Handy noted that STEC has a lower-priced enterprise line called Mach that is “competitive on a price and performance level with the
highest speed drives from Samsung, Intel, Micron and a few others. For
many applications, this is all that is required.”

Handy said Dell’s point about controller and bandwidth limitations is a good one. “It is not unusual for a single SSD to swamp a RAID controller,” he said. “Since SSDs have suddenly jumped into the enterprise, it is not surprising that controller companies don’t yet have offerings tuned to work well with them. Give them a year.

“Still, if the controller is fully maxed out with lower-IOPS SSDs … then there’s no reason to go with the more expensive SSD, unless a single expensive SSD can replace a number of cheaper ones and offer equivalent performance at a better price point, power savings, or footprint,” he said.

The SSDs are sold as the new PS6000S, and Dell also offers the drives in blade servers. Other new arrays, as Dell replaces its 5000 series EqualLogic arrays with the new 6000 series, include the entry-level PS6000E and the high-density PS6500E, both SATA-based, and the performance-oriented, SAS-based PS6000X and PS6000XV.

The new arrays offer as much as 91 percent faster performance for sequential write workloads and 29 percent faster for sequential read workloads, Dell says. As much as 576TB can be packed into a PS group. List pricing for the PS6000 arrays starts at $17,000.

Dell is also upgrading its accompanying EqualLogic storage software, including new support for Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) Hyper-V Smart Copysnapshots for “rapid recovery of Hyper-V virtual machines in as little as seconds,” the company said. The software also supports RAID-6, Microsoft Exchange and SQL, VMware (NYSE: VMW) and Citrix (NASDAQ: CTXS) XenCenter, and the arrays are VMware vStorage-ready.

The company also unveiled SAN Headquarters, a centralized dashboard that monitors performance and events for dozens of PS Series groups and is available to current Dell EqualLogic customers at no additional cost.

Finally, Dell is now offering EMC’s Celerra NX4 as the Dell NX4. The popular unified storage array also includes EMC’s new primary storage deduplication and compression.

The NX4 combines Fibre Channel, iSCSI and NAS connectivity, but Vigil said Dell’s focus will be as a NAS offering because of the strength of its EqualLogic line.

Vigil said the array “demonstrates the continuing commitment to the EMC alliance.”

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Paul Shread
Paul Shread
eSecurity Editor Paul Shread has covered nearly every aspect of enterprise technology in his 20+ years in IT journalism, including an award-winning series on software-defined data centers. He wrote a column on small business technology for, and covered financial markets for 10 years, from the dot-com boom and bust to the 2007-2009 financial crisis. He holds a market analyst certification.

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