EMC charges ahead with Symmetrix


Despite impending layoffs of nearly 10% of its workforce and severe cost-cutting moves, EMC continues to plow ahead with advances to its flagship Symmetrix line of disk arrays and to invest heavily in software and R&D.

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"With $5 billion in cash in the bank and little debt, we're in a strong position to weather the economy," says a company official. Nonetheless, the storage giant has been forced to enact "Plan B"-a contingency plan hinted at, but not detailed, by senior executives at the company's annual Analyst Day this summer. We now know the plan includes sweeping reductions in personnel, real estate, inventories, and other "undisclosed" areas.

Not surprisingly, in light of the souring economic climate, EMC is focused on driving down the total cost of ownership (TCO) of its products while increasing end users' return on investment. "Customers want to put as much information in one place as possible," explains Chuck Hollis, vice president of markets and products at EMC. By consolidating their storage resources, he says, users can increase productivity and reduce TCO.

But with consolidation come new connectivity, capacity, and processing demands. "For example, we now talk of hundreds of connections to enterprise storage rather than tens of connections, and capacity in tens of terabytes rather than hundreds of gigabytes," says Hollis, "and where we used to handle applications one or two at a time, we are now being asked to consolidate dozens or even hundreds of distinct applications."

EMC says that its recently enhanced Symmetrix 8000 series rises to these challenges with up to a 50% increase in throughput and a 360% increase in capacity over previous Symmetrix generations.

The new family consists of three products-the all-new 8230 and the revamped 8530 and 8830 (see chart). All three arrays are based on the company's Mosaic architecture, not the much-anticipated Symm-6 platform. EMC declined to comment on its progress with Symm-6, but a product announcement is not expected before mid-2002.

The Symmetrix 8830 integrates Seagate's 181GB drives for a raw capacity of nearly 70TB. It has a 64GB global cache, aggregate processing power up to 61,760 MIPS, and as many as 96 internal and 384 external Fibre Channel connections. The array can be partitioned into 8,000 logical volumes.

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The 8530 features 17.4TB of raw capacity, 64GB of cache, and 43,232 MIPS of aggregate processing power in one-third the footprint of the 8730, which it replaces. Similarly, the 8230 is about one-half the size of the 8430, with 3.5TB of capacity, 32GB of cache, and 15,440 MIPS.

These advances to the Symmetrix line stem from improvements to its

  • Operating system-Version 5568 of the Engenuity Operating Environment features increased addressability (more servers, logical paths, volumes, and partitions) and increased concurrency and parallelism. This enables larger-scale consolidation, higher service levels, and reduced operational overhead.
  • Processing capability-Symmetrix Glob al Cache Directors with CacheStorm technology enhance system performance and throughput, improve system responsiveness, and manage peak workloads.
    The cache memory can be partitioned into up to 16 paths (four per channel) that can be accessed concurrently for multi-tasking. A buffering "offload engine" frees incoming channels and cache from latency issues.
  • Connectivity-Four- or 12-port Fibre Channel directors for up to 96 connections in a single Symmetrix unit.
  • Hardware-In addition to the use of 181GB drives, EMC now integrates up to 80 333MHz processors, improving total system bandwidth and aggregate performance to up to 61,760 MIPS.

Pricing for the family starts at $100,000, which positions the base product in high-end Clariion territory. While analysts applaud this strategy, they have begun to speculate about the future of the Clariion line. EMC is the market leader in high-end disk arrays but continues to trail Compaq and Dell in the midrange.

Separately, EMC last month acquired Luminate Software, a developer of performance monitoring software, for $50 million in cash. Luminate's software monitors the performance of applications and operating environments such as Oracle, SAP, and Windows NT.

This article was originally published on October 01, 2001