• United States

New EMC Symmetrix arrays may cut costs for users

Jan 20, 20034 mins

EMC targets midrange users with top-tier technology

HOPKINTON, MASS. – EMC on Feb. 3 is expected to unveil a trio of Symmetrix storage arrays that feature a modular design the company hopes finally will convince midrange users that high-end storage capabilities are within their grasp.

To attract customers to its top-of-the-line storage gear, EMC is letting them start with midrange Clariion arrays and then reuse those systems’ disk drives, PowerPath high-availability software and Fibre Channel host bus adapters in new Symmetrix arrays.

“This capability makes it much easier for customers to call [the arrays] an ‘upgrade’ instead of a new purchase,” says Kent Smith, principal consultant for IPSO, a business systems integrator in Wayland, Mass. “[Customers have] very little new-purchase capital budget right now.”

The DMX family of Symmetrix arrays consists of three models – the DMX800, DMX1000 and DMX2000. The DMX800 is the company’s first rack-mountable Symmetrix and contains 16 to 120 73G byte or 146G byte Fibre Channel drives operating at 2G bit/sec. The DMX1000 is a single enclosure that contains 48 to 144 drives. The DMX2000 is a two-enclosure system with 96 to 288 drives for a maximum useable capacity of about 42 terabytes. The array uses 10,000 and 15,000 RPM drives.

While EMC declined to comment on the upcoming news, industry analysts offered their praise.

“We expect EMC’s announcement to be important for its legacy customers, as well as midrange clients that may not yet have had an EMC relationship,” says Tony Prigmore, senior analyst for the Enterprise Storage Group.

In a departure from its previous Symmetrix systems, the new releases are modular, rather than monolithic. Demand for the latter systems is growing more slowly than for modular, midrange storage, analysts say. Gartner expects high-end storage to increase from $7.4 billion in 2001 to $8 billion in 2006. By contrast, midrange, modular storage will grow from $5.9 billion in 2001 to $9 billion in 2006. HP leads the midrange market with a 35.5% market share, Gartner says. EMC has a paltry 5% market share in midrange storage, while it dominates the monolithic market with 41.5%.

In monolithic storage, the RAID controllers and disk drives are packaged with cache memory and high-availability features in a single large cabinet that is then populated with terabytes of disk drives. Systems such as the Symmetrix 8000, IBM’s Enterprise Storage Server (code-named Shark) and Hitachi Data Systems’ Lightning are examples of monolithic storage. Users without huge capacity needs might buy monolithic storage with its high-availability and performance features, understanding that they won’t be able to provision it with all the disk capacity it is capable of using.

Modular storage, which is common to HP’s Enterprise Virtual system, Dell’s PowerVault storage and EMC’s Clariion, normally doesn’t have large enclosure, high-availability features and large cache memory. It separates RAID controllers from disk drive modules, which are housed in standard racks, letting users add capacity and availability features as needed. Customers will provision the modular storage with high-availability features and cache memory when they buy new storage disks.

Also, in contrast to the previous Symmetrix bus-based architecture, the new Symmetrix models use a matrix switched-loop architecture that connects as many as nine trays containing disks to storage controllers, thus speeding performance.

In traditional Fibre Channel systems, one controller connects to one or two disk trays via a Fibre Channel arbitrated loop, which controls the passing of data over the network. EMC’s new architecture improves performance without saturating bandwidth and, according to EMC, provides better performance than InfiniBand, sources say. The matrix also allows internal operations that are five to 10 times as fast as previous Symmetrix systems. Sources say the company has tested more disks per loop and will support them in the future.

Analysts say the new matrix switching architecture is a surprising feature from a vendor that has relied heavily on bus-based architectures.

“They will go to a new architecture, which will substantially improve their throughput and performance,” says Roger Cox, chief analyst for Gartner. “Boxes are growing bigger and bigger, therefore you have to have more horsepower to handle the capacity.”

Pricing for the new products has yet to be set.