EMC doubles capacity, bandwidth

By Kevin Komiega

—EMC upped the ante in the high-end storage market Monday with the announcement of its biggest array to date. The new Symmetrix DMX-3 features twice the processing power, internal bandwidth, and storage capacity of its predecessor, the DMX-2. EMC also introduced new data migration tools aimed at helping mainframe and open systems users consolidate their storage environments.

The Symmetrix DMX-3 will support up to 960 Fibre Channel disk drives when it ships in early September. EMC expects the system will be qualified to support up to 1,920 disk drives in the first half of 2006 and more than 2,000 by the end of next year. The array will ultimately scale to more than one petabyte of raw storage capacity.

The DMX-3 is more than just a massive collection of disks. EMC built the array to be its fastest to date by doubling internal bandwidth and processing power with 128GBps non-blocking interconnects, eight processors per director, and the addition of up to 512GB of mirrored global memory based on Dual Data Rate (DDR) SDRAM technology.

EMC touts the Symmetrix DMX-3 as the industry's fastest storage array. However, EMC does not make its performance results public, nor does the company participate in industry standard benchmarking tests offered by organizations such as the Storage Performance Council, a practice that is commonplace with most of EMC's competitors. For that reason, Enterprise Strategy Group senior analyst Tony Prigmore says users will have to do their own performance testing. But from a capacity standpoint, the DMX-3 is simply the biggest system on the block.

"There's no question that EMC clearly has the advantage in single system capacity," says Prigmore. "EMC just took the leadership position in the leapfrog game. What's surprising is that people didn't think they were going to go upstream." Prigmore believes that EMC identified a bigger market opportunity in the high-end than expected, prompting the company to redesign its system based on customer requirements.

EMC is also supporting non-disruptive upgrades with the new Symmetrix. The array has a single system bay and separate storage bays. Each bay is powered independently and contains scalable power and battery backup. Capacity can be upgraded non-disruptively by adding storage bays or disk drives. Processing power can also be added by installing additional director boards while the system is online.

In order to keep the DMX-3 cost-competitive, EMC plans to support a new series of low-cost Fibre Channel disk drives. Barry Burke, EMC's senior director of Symmetrix platform marketing, says the low-cost drives will range in capacity from 400GB to 500GB at speeds of 7,200rpm. While pricing for the new drives has yet to be announced, EMC says the drives will be comparable in price to SATA drives. The new drives are due early next year.

The entire Symmetrix DMX Series, including the DMX-3, will support the new drives and will enable "in-the-box" tiered storage, allowing multiple tiers of storage to be implemented in a single system as part of an information life-cycle management (ILM) strategy.

On the software front, EMC added two new host-based solutions for moving data within and between storage systems. The new EMC Open Migrator/LM software provides automated online data migration between heterogeneous storage systems in Windows and Unix environments. The new EMC/Softek Logical Data Migration Facility (LDMF) software, developed jointly by EMC and Softek, enables online relocation of mainframe data at the dataset level.

The DMX-3 array is fully compatible with all existing Symmetrix DMX software and is based on the Enginuity 5x71 operating platform announced in October of 2004. EMC based the new Symmetrix on the Enginuity code to allow customers to avoid migration headaches and take advantage of features like remote replication with SRDF/Star, SRDF/A, and Open Replicator.

End users have historically been forced to deal with new hardware and software functionality simultaneously and that meant managing different operating systems. With the new DMX-3 customers only have to manage a hardware upgrade.

"We've been listening to customers and they didn't like the way we and all of our competition were bringing out a new [operating system] with a new hardware platform," explains Dave Donatelli, EMC's executive vice president of storage platforms.

Despite the growing popularity of modular, midrange storage arrays EMC's president and CEO Joe Tucci claims users are clamoring for high-end systems with more capacity and he is optimistic about the market opportunity for large arrays. "Customers that tried out the midrange are realizing that they can't abandon the high-end. The high-end systems have better functionality, performance, and availability."

Customers can order the Symmetrix DMX-3 system today, with shipments beginning in early September. The initial release of the DMX-3 will support FICON-attached IBM mainframes and iSCSI or Fibre Channel-based systems running AIX, HP-UX, Linux, Solaris, and Windows.

Kevin Komiega is a freelance writer.

This article was originally published on July 26, 2005