New Dell storage array, software-defined options added

Dell Storage ships new entry-level SCv2000 arrays, ups performance and density in PS6610 and adds a new Microsoft-based software-defined storage option.

Dell Inc. expanded its storage portfolio today with the introduction of new entry-level SCv2000 arrays, denser and higher performing PS6610 systems and a new software-defined storage option using Microsoft's Windows Storage Spaces.

The SCv2000 Series, which is based on Dell's Compellent technology and became generally available today, enables customers to access the same management console and some of the same storage features as Dell's higher-end SC models. Those features include thin provisioning, snapshots, replication and remote and local data protection.

Alan Atkinson, vice president and general manager of Dell Storage, said the main distinguishing factor for the SCv2000 is the $14,000 starting price at which customers gain access to advanced features and professional support. He identified one target market as small enterprises that commonly use servers as storage and sometimes waste up to half the storage space.

Dell's SCv2000 customers have the option to use hard disk drives (HDDs) or a hybrid configuration mixing HDDs and solid-state drives. The SCv2000 Series is available in three models: SCv2000 (2U, 12 3.5-inch internal drives), SCv2020 (2U, 24 internal 2.5-inch drives) and SCv2080 (5U, 84 2.5- or 3.5-inch internal drives). With each model, customers have the option to add external drives to expand to a maximum of 168 drives, or 504 TB of raw capacity.

A Dell spokesman said the $14,000 starting list price applies to the SCv2000 model with 2 TB of near-line SAS disk capacity, three years of Dell support and core software, including enterprise management, thin provisioning, RAID tiering and virtual port and dynamic controller capabilities. 

New Dell storage array PS6610 based on EqualLogic

Dell claims the new dual-controller PS6610 Series, which is due in the third quarter and is based on the company's EqualLogic technology, offers 3.5 times more capacity, scaling out to 504 TB with the PS6610E model, and up to seven times greater performance than prior-generation EqualLogic PS6510 arrays.

The starting list price for the PS6610 is $68,000 with 42 near-line SAS drives of 2 TB each, all software and three years of Dell support, according to a Dell spokesman.

The PS6610 Series will ship with new Dell EqualLogic PS Series Array Software 8.0, which includes compression of snapshots and replicas and support for VMware's vSphere Virtual Volumes to allow array management on a virtual machine basis rather than per volume or LUN. The PS Series software is a free upgrade for existing customers, according to Dell.

Randy Kerns, a senior strategist at Evaluator Group, said the PS6610 will move the PS family higher in the midrange market with strong features and ease of use, but the array's iSCSI-only connectivity differs from most systems moving upmarket that support both Fibre Channel and iSCSI.

Dell adds Microsoft-based SDS option

Dell's software-defined storage (SDS) approach, known as Blue Thunder, also carries a different twist than the strategies of many competitors.

Scott Sinclair, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, noted that some of the other players in the emerging SDS space, such as EMC with ViPR and ScaleIO and HP with StoreVirtual, focus on one or two specific technologies. He said that, by contrast, Dell offers SDS options with Nexenta, Nutanix, Red Hat Ceph, VMware and now Microsoft.

"Time will tell which ends up being the superior strategy," Sinclair wrote in an email. He added, "The SDS market is still very small relative to the rest of storage. By staying flexible, Dell's strategy will help them adjust as the market matures."

Dell Storage with Microsoft Storage Spaces is a scale-out file server option consisting of tested and validated combinations of Dell Storage MD1400 or MD1420 direct-attached storage, Dell PowerVault MD3060e storage enclosures and Dell PowerEdge servers as storage nodes, according to a Dell product brief. A Dell spokesman said pricing will be available closer to the expected June ship date.

Dell claims the design can accommodate two to four storage nodes per cluster, two to four storage enclosures and up to 240 HDDs. Client connectivity is 10 Gigabit Ethernet, with options for remote direct memory access for workloads that require high throughput and low latency. Connectivity for the storage enclosures is 12 gigabit per second (Gbps) or 6 Gbps shared SAS, according to Dell.

Dell's Atkinson said Dell Storage with Microsoft Storage Spaces is ideal for Microsoft-related workloads, although it can also be used with other types of workloads. He called it a "real sweet spot in the market" in that it brings the implementation of Microsoft's Storage Spaces virtualization capability "down to being as easy as just ordering a SKU."

"One of the inhibitors we've seen to market adoption around software-defined storage is the fact that if you try to pair up any software with any hardware, the degrees of freedom and the permutations become nearly infinite," said Travis Vigil, executive director of product management for Dell Storage. He said customers have been asking Dell for rigorously tested and validated options, best practices and a single point of support, whether they have a software or hardware issue.

Hosting provider anxious to use SCv2000

Out of all of today's Dell storage array announcements, the one of greatest interest to Microsoft-centric hosting provider SherWeb is the SCv2000 Series. SherWeb, which is headquartered in Sherbrooke, Quebec, has been beta testing a Dell SCv2020 unit for approximately one month.

"This [SCv2000 Series] will allow us to maintain what we love the most about Compellent but at a price point where it was unthinkable to use Compellent," said Samuel Nadeau, IT director of infrastructure at SherWeb, which has offices in Canada, the U.S. and Europe.

SherWeb was already using Dell's higher-end SC4000 and SC8000 Series arrays for production workloads, but the company opted for Dell's less expensive, low-end PowerVault arrays to back up customer data.

Nadeau said SherWeb will gradually replace its 11 PowerVault systems with SCv2000 models now that the prices of the systems are roughly the same. An added bonus is that the SCv2080's 84-drive maximum exceeds the PowerVault's 60 drives in similar physical rack space, according to Nadeau.

"PowerVault [arrays] were good because of their price point, but that's about it. Management was a pain. Upgrade was a pain. Everything else around them was not so great," said Nadeau. "But, at that price point, it was really hard to ask for a lot more."

He said administrators had to manage the PowerVault systems on a one-by-one basis, making it difficult to identify bottlenecks. With the new SCv2000 Series, they will be able to manage and monitor multiple arrays at once using Compellent's centralized management console, Nadeau said.

Nadeau said the SCv2000 Series will also enable SherWeb to extend the use cases for its lower-end storage beyond backups to additional workloads, such as Microsoft Exchange Server databases and applications that require a large amount of capacity without high performance.

"Since it's using the same stack as Compellent, we feel a lot more confident in the ability of this storage array in handling production workloads," said Nadeau. "It will obviously not replace an SC4020 or even an SC8000. But, for lower-end deployments, this will allow us to lower the cost of entry.

"We're not going to compromise on quality, but now I'm going to be able to tell [customers] that if they want to be hosted on an SC2000, that will bring down their price of hosting," Nadeau added. "This is not something that we even proposed before simply because we were not confident in the ability to execute of the PowerVault. We simply did not trust them to host production data."

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