Dell tunes EqualLogic SANs for VMs, VDI

By Kevin Komiega

-- Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) is preparing to ship a pair of EqualLogic iSCSI SAN arrays that combine solid-state disk (SSD) drives, SAS drives, and version 5.0 of its EqualLogic firmware, bringing automated data tiering to the arrays in an effort to support virtual machine (VM) and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) deployments.

Dell also announced additions to its PowerVault lineup and new switches from Brocade and Juniper Networks.

The new Dell EqualLogic PS6000XVS and PS6010XVS iSCSI SAN arrays both support a mix of eight 100GB SSD drives and eight 450GB 15,000rpm SAS drives for a total system capacity of 4.4TB. Both SAN arrays can also be combined with other EqualLogic PS Series arrays in the same SAN group, with up to 16 arrays per group.

The only differences between the two models are their controllers and price tags. The EqualLogic PS6000XVS houses dual 1GbE iSCSI controllers at a starting price of $50,000 while the PS6010XVS comes with dual 10 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) iSCSI controllers at a starting price of $55,000. The iSCSI arrays will be available in August.

Travis Vigil, senior product manager for Dell's EqualLogic product line, says the PS6000XVS and PS6010XVS have been tuned for virtualized environments, with an eye towards overcoming the obstacles to deploying a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI).

"The growth of our EqualLogic product line [can be attributed to] the industry's transition to virtual servers. Now we're seeing an increasing interest in VDI deployments, but there are technology hurdles like capacity utilization and the boot storm issue," says Vigil. "We get around those issues through the use of adaptive load balancing and Thin Clone technology."

Recent research points to a VDI explosion on the horizon. Gartner estimates that 500,000 desktops are running on virtual machines (VMs) today. The firm predicts that IT will migrate 30% of its installed based of PCs to VMs by 2014 (see "VDI: The next big storage challenge").

According to Vigil, the Dell EqualLogic software architecture received a performance and scalability boost with the introduction of EqualLogic 5.0 firmware.

Version 5.0, available now at no additional cost to Dell EqualLogic customers, can reduce SAN network traffic and CPU utilization for the copy process by more than 95% and CPU utilization for the copy process by over 75% in VMware environments.

The software also includes automated tiering, load balancing and data movement technologies

Vigil says the advancements were made possible through integration with the VMware vStorage API.

According to IDC, the iSCSI SAN market posted revenue growth of 45.7% in Q1 2010 vs. Q1 2009. Dell led the iSCSI SAN market with a 36.9% market share, followed by NetApp with a 14.4% share.

The new additions to Dell's entry-level PowerVault family include the PowerVault MD3200 and MD3200i series arrays. Vigil says the MD3200 series is designed for SMBs in need of a storage array for Microsoft Hyper-V and VMware ESX virtual environments.

The MD3200 series represents a complete technology refresh of the PowerVault line with support for 96 drives (including SSDs), twice the throughput of previous generations using 6Gbps SAS, and an increase in the number of hosts that can be attached to the arrays.

The PowerVault MD3200 and MD3200i will be available next week. Pricing starts at about $11,000.

Dell is also making new networking products available in conjunction with the storage launch.

Based on its OEM agreement with Brocade, Dell announced the PowerConnect B-Series RX-16, which extends the current family of PowerConnect B-RX chassis switches with a 16-slot, modular chassis with 10GbE connectivity. Also new is the Dell PowerConnect 8024 Ethernet switch, featuring 24 ports of 10GBASE-T and Layer 3 routing for data center, aggregation and unified fabric deployments.

Dell also introduced the PowerConnect-J series of products, the first switches and routers born of Dell's OEM agreement with Juniper. The PowerConnect J-Series includes the EX8200 family of switches for data centers and cloud environments, the EX4200 family of switches for smaller environments, and the PowerConnect J-Series SRX family of Service Gateways for network security.

The PowerConnect 8024 will be available next week starting at $15,000. The PowerConnect B-RX16 will be available in early August for approximately $38,500. The PowerConnect-J series of network offerings will be available in early July.  Pricing differs based on model.

Related articles:
Dell jumps into object-based storage
Dell taps Brocade for FCoE, CEE gear
Dell ships 10GbE EqualLogic arrays, networking gear

This article was originally published on June 09, 2010