EMC ships entry-level Clariion for VMware

By Kevin Komiega

—EMC today announced a new low-end Clariion disk array aimed at meeting the storage needs of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), but this time around EMC has a specific type of SMB customer in mind—VMware users.

The Clariion AX4 Networked Storage System, a replacement for the AX150, has been designed specifically as a low-cost, easy-to-use network storage platform for VMware implementations.

The AX4 can be configured with up to 60 SAS and/or SATA drives to scale up to 60TB of capacity, and supports either iSCSI or Fibre Channel SAN connectivity. The system can store data from up to 64 Windows, Linux, Unix, NetWare, or VMware Infrastructure hosts and supports applications such as Microsoft Exchange, SQL, Oracle, and SAP.

EMC is betting that the rise of iSCSI and the advent of VMware server consolidation projects will make 2008 the year in which the demand for networked storage in the SMB market skyrockets.

"Clearly the need for networked storage in the SMB market is growing in a major way," says Barry Ader, senior director of storage product marketing at EMC. "Server consolidation is now a prime driver for storage consolidation. Users are buying network storage as they move from internal server storage."

Ader adds that the iSCSI protocol is a natural fit for SMBs. "This product is specifically designed to work with and leverage key components of the VMware environment. The AX4 supports Fibre Channel as well, but we are highlighting the iSCSI capabilities because the growth in the SMB market is going to come from customers leveraging the iSCSI protocol," says Ader. "For new customers entering their first storage consolidation project, iSCSI will be the way to go."

Another piece of the AX4 puzzle is the inclusion of advanced software options previously available only on the Clariion CX platforms. The new system is managed by the latest version of EMC's Navisphere Express software, which uses a graphical approach to creating and managing disk pools and virtual disks, enabling storage capacity to be created, allocated, and re-allocated, while applications remain online.

More importantly, the AX4 is tightly integrated with some of the storage management capabilities found in VMware, many of which require shared storage. The AX4 supports real-time volume expansion for simplifying the allocation of high-performance storage for new virtual machines. Advanced features of the AX4 include EMC's Virtual LUN technology, which can be used in conjunction with VMware Storage VMotion for the non-disruptive migration of multiple virtual machine disk files. In addition, the Clariion AX4 supports EMC's replication software, including MirrorView, SAN Copy, RepliStor, and Replication Manager. Finally, the Clariion AX4 has been certified by VMware and is included in the VMware Storage/SAN Compatibility Guide.

Charles King, principal analyst at the Pund-IT consulting firm, says EMC has hit the mark with the AX4. "Providing storage support for virtual machines has been a dicey issue thus far. As far as I know, no other storage vendor has integrated a platform with VMware to this degree," says King. "And, because of the obvious synergies between VMware and EMC, it makes perfect sense. They have created a package that can scale and is fine for SMBs, but could also provide on-site storage for branch offices in distributed enterprises."

The most notable detail of the AX4, according to King, is the sheer scalability of the platform. The system currently supports 750GB drives, with 1TB drive support slated for March. The AX4 can scale from a four-drive, 3TB configuration up to 60TB.

EMC's Ader maintains that the AX4 fits just below the Clariion CX3-10, but King believes some of the more advanced configurations of the AX4 may make it an attractive alternative to the CX3-10 for some customers.

"I don't think the CX3-10 will be discontinued any time soon, but the AX4 is basically replacing the AX150 and the low-end Clariion array," says King. "The scalability and the higher-end software options appear to be aimed more at enterprise clients looking at low-end CX arrays for distributed storage in remote offices."

The Clariion AX4 system is priced from $8,599 for a 3TB configuration. It will also be offered by Dell (see "Dell to resell EMC array," below) and NEC under their own respective brands.

Dell to resell EMC array

By Ann Silverthorn

Dell today announced the Dell/EMC AX4-5 disk array, which is a re-branded EMC AX4.

"This is the first Dell/EMC product that supports both SAS and SATA in the same array," says Eric Cannell, product manager for Dell Storage.

Replacing the AX150, Dell claims the AX4-5 offers expanded features in the areas of scalability, reliability, and manageability. According to Cannel, "Although the AX4-5 can handle Fibre Channel or iSCSI, it can be managed by someone who doesn't know Fibre Channel."

The ease of use for the AX4-5 is attributed to EMC's Navisphere Express software. Cannel says Navisphere Express offers near-automatic configuration of the array. The software alerts the user if there are problems with cables, connections, etc. The user consults the digital readout on the back of the unit to identify a problem.

The product is also designed to support mixed-drive configurations, with support for SAS drives for higher performance and/or SATA drives for higher capacity in a tiered storage configuration.

Additional features of the Dell AX4-5 include

  • Scalability: The AX4-5 supports up to 64 hosts and 60 drives across five enclosures;
  • Reliability: The AX4-5 controllers use features such as continuous background disk-consistency checking, mirrored cache, and cache de-staging to be used in case of a failure. Data is protected in the controller, on the drive, and throughout the data path;
  • Management: Along with EMC's Navisphere Express, the AX4-5 has also inherited software capabilities that have until now been available only on the more advanced Dell/EMC CX3 arrays. This gives users an overall management view for multiple EMC arrays, as well as optional data-replication and migration tools.

A four-drive configuration is priced at $12,259.

Also see the following:
Optimizing Virtual Data Centers with Dell/EMC CX3-20 iSCSI Storage

The benefits of SANs for SMBs

This article was originally published on January 08, 2008