EMC goes on hardware binge

By Heidi Biggar

After months of hearing a lot about its software and significantly less about its hardware portfolio, EMC last month made one of its broadest hardware announcements to date.

In addition to refreshing its Celerra, Centera, CLARiiON, and DMX product lines, EMC announced new data migration functionality (between DMX/Symmetrix and mainframe environments) as well as Storage Management Initiative Specification (SMI-S) support for both CLARiiON and Symmetrix disk arrays.

Analysts say that none of hardware enhancements are revolutionary, but that collectively they have significant implications for the storage industry. For users, it means bigger, faster systems—in some cases at lower costs. For EMC's competitors, it is a not-so-subtle reminder of the company's ongoing commitment to hardware development.

"It's a really good hardware refresh, but more than that it shows that EMC is still a company that provides both hardware and software," says Randy Kerns, a senior partner at The Evaluator Group consulting firm.

Kerns notes that the hardware enhancements are all "low-risk" for users; that is, they don't require users to make any significant changes to their storage environments in order to benefit from the technology advances. The enhancements are available to users as new models or, for those with existing systems, as upgrades.

At the high-end, EMC announced a new DMX-2 model, which features faster channel and disk directors for significantly better performance, 32GB global memory directors for increased cache configurations to 256GB, support for high-performance 73GB 15,000rpm Fibre Channel disk drives, the option of parity RAID or true RAID 5, and multi-array support for the company's SRDF/A asynchronous replication software.

"In supporting RAID 5, versus parity RAID (or stacked RAID 4), users will get much better performance and they won't run into device contention," says Kerns.

The DMX-2 array is a second-generation product. The first DMX (Direct Matrix Architecture) model was shipped in February 2003.

In the midrange, EMC announced a new line of CLARiiON CX disk arrays—the CX300, CX500, and CX700, which replace the CX200, CX400, and CX600. However, similar to the new DMX model, users can purchase the new features as upgrades. The enhancements are supported on all CLARiiON systems dating back to 2001.

The new CX models are faster and more feature-rich than their predecessors, but are available with no increase in cost. In terms of performance improvements, EMC claims that the low-end CX300 is 25% faster than the CX200, while the departmental CX500 is twice as fast as the CX400, and the high-end CX700 is 33% faster than the CX600.

All models include new replication support, including incremental SANCopy, which makes it easier for users to move, or migrate, data among available disk resources (only the changes are moved) for information life-cycle management (ILM).

EMC also announced expanded disk support for SANCopy, including compatibility with IBM FAStT and ESS (Shark), Sun T3, and HP MSA100 and EVA3000, as well as SnapView integration modules for Microsoft Exchange and SQL Server. EMC also announced integration with Microsoft Volume Shadowcopy Service, which, among other things, will make it easier for users to replicate data using SnapView.

On the network-attached storage (NAS) front, EMC showed its commitment to the developing NAS gateway market by introducing two new gateway-enabled NAS products—the NS700 NAS filers and NS700G NAS gateway.

The gateway is designed for users who already have a storage area network (SAN) and are looking to pool SAN and NAS resources; the filer is for users considering implementing a NAS-SAN configuration in the future. Both systems are available in single- or dual-mover configurations and support CLARiiON CX and Symmetrix arrays on the back-end, and either Fibre Channel or ATA drives for users looking to create a tiered storage environment.

At the very-high-end, EMC also introduced the CNS Enterprise NAS Gateway, which it claims is twice as fast as its predecessor and is designed for storage consolidation. The system also features new remote replication capabilities.

Lastly, EMC made several enhancements to its Centera content-addressed storage (CAS) system, including new modules with faster processors, 320GB Serial ATA drives, and Gigabit Ethernet support. EMC claims that the new modules, which can be mixed and matched with old modules within the same Centera system, enable three to five times as many objects to be moved per second.

Also, recognizing that a good portion of the world's fixed-content data lies in mainframes, EMC added an application programming interface (API) to Centera that enables the system to connect to IBM z/OS mainframes. Users can connect to non-API-supported mainframe environments using a gateway from Bus-Tech.

This article was originally published on March 01, 2004