LSI extends 4Gbps FC arrays

By Ann Silverthorn

—LSI Logic has added four new products to its Engenio division's 4Gbps Fibre Channel line of modular storage systems. The 3992, 3992 Turbo, 3994, and 6994 join the 6998, a high-end 4Gbps controller that was introduced in early 2005. The new products move LSI's 4Gbps offerings down into the midrange, leaving room for future development in the entry-level space.

The 3994 is a 3U, 16-drive Fibre Channel subsystem that can support a combination of up to 112 Fibre Channel or Serial ATA (SATA) II disk drives. It includes eight auto-negotiating 4Gbps Fibre Channel host connections, four 4Gbps Fibre Channel drive ports, and 4GB of cache memory, and it can be upgraded to the model 6998.

The 3992 has four 4Gbps Fibre Channel host ports, four 4Gbps Fibre Channel drive ports, and 2GB of cache memory. Both systems feature SANtricity software for partitions, snapshot, and volume copy.

The 6994 is a scaled-down version of the 6998 with reduced cache and options to reduce the cost and provide a 4Gbps option to the high-end of the midrange. The 6994 will eventually replace the 5884 system. Like the 3994, it is also a 3U system, but it features higher performance and support for online expansion up to 224 drives. LSI claims performance of 44,000 disk-level I/Os per second (IOPS), or 990MBps throughput at the disk level, for the 6994.

"The 2882 and 5884 will stay around for a while, but we'll work with our partners to bring the products to an end-of-life status," says Steve Gardner, director of product marketing for LSI Logic's Engenio storage group. "There are a couple of reasons why people buy older technology when newer replacements are coming out. Sometimes there's a cost difference, but sometimes they've qualified a particular product and they don't have the time to qualify something new. Replicated, distributed offices are an example."

John Webster, senior analyst and founder of the Data Mobility Group research/consulting firm, disagrees with those customers. "What's the reason for not buying 4Gbps if you can auto-negotiate back to 2Gbps and be ready for the faster technology in case you decide to go in that direction? The real question is, if you're going to make the investment, does it cost that much more to buy 4Gbps than 2Gbps? The answer is no."

Other than being able to purchase 4Gbps technology for about the same price as 2Gbps technology, Webster likes the customer-replaceable unit aspect of LSI's modular storage systems. "With modular designs, users can keep spares of certain parts at their sites. If something goes wrong, they can unplug the failed part and plug in a new one without having to wait for the service person."

Prices for LSI's systems range from about $20,000 for the 3994 to $300,000 for a fully loaded model 6994 that supports 224 drives and more than 100TB.

LSI's OEM partners—such as IBM, Sun/StorageTek, and SGI—are expected to announce products based on LSI's new systems in the coming weeks.

Also this week, EMC introduced Clariion disk arrays with support for 4Gbps Fibre Channel host and drive connections (see "EMC debuts new architecture for Clariion").

This article was originally published on May 09, 2006