EMC revamps entire storage line

EMC is revampingits entire product line, dropping its midrange Clariion SAN and Celerra NAS systems for a new combined VNX array that offers both file and block-level storage through a number of data transport protocols.

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EMC is revampingits entire product line, dropping its midrange Clariion SAN and Celerra NAS systems for a new combined VNX array that offers both file and block-level storage through a number of data transport protocols.

The company yesterday announced a range of products, including upgrades to its high-end VMAX Symmetrix array, the introduction of clustered NAS from its recent acquisition of Isilon Systems , and a product line that combines its midrange Clariion SAN and Celerra NAS systems.

In a media event punctuated with stunts staged in New York and Miami, EMC rolled out its new line of VNX SAN/NAS arrays. The line includes three models: the new entry-level VNXe with a price tag of under $10,000 and the VNX5000 and VNX7500, the prices for which EMC did not disclose.

Alongside a circus-like atmosphere that included a performance group that crammed 26 people into a Mini Cooper in a bid for a new Guinness Book world record, one of the more eye-catching product demonstrations occurred when EMC brought a fourth-grader on to the stage to show how easy a VNXe could be configured. The boy used an AppleiPad to configure storage capacity on a VNXe in a matter of a few mouse clicks. He then proceeded to pull and replace a failed hard drive in the array in under a minute.

There are two versions of the VNXe line: The 2U (3.5-in. high) VNXe3100, which supports Network File System (NFS), Common Internet File System (CIFS) and the parallel network file system or pNFS, and holds up to 96 drives, and the 3U (5.25-in. high) VNXe3300, which uses the iSCSI protocol and can hold up to 120 drives.

The advantage of the pNFS protocol is that it's basically a standard client for high-performance file systems, which would bring high-performance computing to commercial NAS systems. EMC's other complementary acquisition, Greenplum, sells a data warehouse platform based on a massively parallel processing (MPP) architecture that can scale out to hundreds of servers running a single database instance. Combined, the two systems offer the hardware and software for a high-performance computing architecture.

EMC CEO Joe Tucci said storage today is all about "the cloud ," whether in the form of a data center -based private infrastructure or in a SaaS-model. EMC's new product line is aimed at supporting SaaS-like capabilities, such as thin provisioning and automated storage tiering, he said.

"IT has become too complex, too inefficient, too inflexible and too costly. [IT managers] feel they have too many diverse environments. Too many operating systems. Those operating systems run on too many distinct platforms and underlying architectures. Large customers feel they have too many data centers and too many vendors," Tucci said. "There's too much money spent with service companies to customize applications ... and users feel they have a lack of control."

EMC is targeting its new VNX line to compete with NetApp's Fabric-Attached Storage (FAS) line of products, which have been offering block- or file-level storage since they were released in 2008. NetApp has three FAS products, the entry-level FAS2000, the midrange FAS3000 and the high-end FAS6000 array.

"Today's EMC news is another example of the storage industry playing catch up to NetApp. While other companies are trying to plug holes in their existing portfolios to keep pace, NetApp continues to gain market share by innovating and delivering solutions built on a single, unified architecture that are optimized for shared infrastructures," Manish Goel, NetApp's executive vice president of products, said in a statement.

NetApp's line of FAS storage arrays all use the same Data ONTAP 8 operating system. Last year, the company also added what it called Unified Connect to its Data ONTAP 8, which offers administrators the ability to concurrently run a variety of Ethernet-based connections to its storage arrays, including Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE), iSCSI, NFS or CIFS.

EMC also added the latter capability to its new VNX line of SAN/NAS arrays .

The entry-level VNXe is built on Intel's Westmere processor and is designed to have no single point of failure with dual power sources and support for dual-ported 6Gbit/sec. SAS drives. The array, which comes in 2U (3.5-in high) and 3U models, can hold up to 120 disk drives for a total capacity of 240TB. The VNXe takes the place of the Clariion AX4 iSCSI and NX4 Unified Storage System.

The VNXe comes with advanced features such as thin provisioning and file deduplication and decompression. It also has an integrated self-help tool that notifies users to failures within the system.

Pat Gelsinger, president and chief operating officer of EMC's information infrastructure products, said the new VNXe has the lowest cost entry point of any SAN/NAS array in the market. He compared prices to multi-protocol systems from NetApp, IBM, Dell and Hewlett-Packard, claiming they all sold for more than $10,000. However, a NetApp spokewoman discounted EMC's pricing, stating its entry-level FAS2000 system has a starting price of $7,920 , for a single controller and 3TB of capacity.

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