EMC adds iSCSI to Clariion arrays

By Dave Simpson

EMC's announcement earlier this week of support for native iSCSI on its Clariion disk arrays is expected to accelerate end-user adoption of iSCSI-based IP SANs.

"EMC and its channel, particularly Dell, will open up new markets for iSCSI in small businesses, education, government, and remote offices," says Tony Asaro, a senior analyst with the Enterprise Strategy Group consulting firm. "This is a sign that iSCSI has reached a new level in end-user adoption, and it will definitely increase the market potential for iSCSI."

Other analysts note that Dell, not EMC, will rev up iSCSI at the low-end of the market. (Dell is reselling a version of EMC's iSCSI-based AX100i array at a starting price of $4,999.) "Dell will get the iSCSI engine moving," says Arun Taneja, consulting analyst and founder of the Taneja Group consulting firm, "although, so far, in terms of numbers the iSCSI market has been pretty dull."

Nevertheless, research firms predict strong growth for iSCSI this year, although not necessarily as a result of EMC's entry into the market. For example, International Data Corp. (IDC) reports that the iSCSI market went from $19 million in 2003 to $85 million in 2004. IDC expects the iSCSI market to hit $296 million this year, representing an almost 250% increase in revenues for iSCSI storage systems. And the Enterprise Strategy Group estimates that 42% of small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) will implement iSCSI by mid-2006.

The iSCSI-based Clariion arrays are not EMC's first foray into the IP SAN space. The company added iSCSI support to its Symmetrix DMX arrays in 2003, and to its Celerra NS500/NS700 and NetWin NAS servers in 2004. Shipments of the iSCSI-equipped DMX arrays in large part contributed to EMC's number-two position in the iSCSI market, according to IDC. (Network Appliance, which includes iSCSI for free on virtually all of its NAS filers, is the leader in shipments of iSCSI systems.)

EMC's Clariion iSCSI arrays include the AX100i, CX300i (available Q2), and CX500i (see "at a glance" for product details). The entry-level AX100i comes with 250GB Serial ATA (SATA) disk drives, while users can mix and match Fibre Channel, 320GB parallel ATA, and/or 250GB SATA drives in the CX300i and CX500i disk subsystems. All of the systems are expected to be resold by Dell (although Dell has only announced shipments of the AX100i), as well as by other EMC channel partners.

EMC's iSCSI arrays are priced almost exactly the same as equivalent Clariion arrays with external Fibre Channel connections.

However, Tom Joyce, EMC's vice president of storage platforms marketing, notes that "the total cost of ownership [of the iSCSI arrays] is lower because presumably you're using your existing network infrastructure, and most users won't need host bus adapters (HBAs), so iSCSI provides a lower TCO."

EMC's iSCSI Clariion arrays have been qualified with QLogic's QLA4010 iSCSI HBAs and with Microsoft's iSCSI software initiators, although support for Linux initiators is due in the second quarter, according to Joyce.

The iSCSI subsystems include array-based TCP/IP offload engines (TOEs) at the port level, which allows users to consolidate more hosts per array, says Joyce.

Commenting on the expected applications for the iSCSI arrays, Joyce says "the main reasons why our users want to build iSCSI SANs are either because they have a strong preference for IP [vs. Fibre Channel] or they want to connect second- or third-tier servers to a SAN for consolidation and/or easier management. Consolidation and low cost are very strong drivers for iSCSI."

EMC's entry into the iSCSI market may prove to be a double-edged sword for the smaller start-ups that have been selling iSCSI arrays, including vendors such as EqualLogic, Intransa, and LeftHand Networks. On one hand, EMC's entry "legitimizes" the market; on the other hand, competition will stiffen significantly.


EMC's Clariion iSCSI lineup

--1GB cache
--Max. 3TB capacity, 256 LUNs
--SATA disk drives
--Supports up to eight iSCSI hosts
--Two GbE front-end connections
--List price: $6,200 (single controller, 500GB, Snapshot, Navisphere Express software)

--2GB cache
--Max. 17TB capacity, 512 LUNs
--Mixed Fibre Channel, ATA, SATA drives
--Supports up to 64 iSCSI hosts
--Four GbE front-end connections; two back-end Fibre Channel disk connections
--List price: $25,650 (dual controllers, 365GB, SnapView, Navisphere Management software)

--4GB cache
--Max. 35TB capacity, 1,024 LUNs
--Mixed Fibre Channel, ATA, SATA drives
--Supports up to 128 iSCSI hosts
--Four GbE front-end connections; four back-end Fibre Channel disk connections
--List price: $68,075 (dual controllers, 356GB, SnapView, Navisphere Management software)

All arrays work with Microsoft's iSCSI initiator, Windows 2000/2003, and QLogic's iSCSI HBAs.

This article was originally published on February 15, 2005