EMC launches DMX array with more than 1 petabyte capacity

It unveiled iSCSI remote replication and NAS global name space virtualization

EMC Corp. today announced an upgrade to its high-end array that creates its largest storage subsystem to date. The upgrades to the DMX-3 Symmetrix array offers users a scalability range that fits midsize shops and large corporations.

The DMX-3 array also sports three different types of Fibre Channel drives that allow users to move storage across tiers of disks inside the array.

In addition to announcing the upgraded DMX-3 storage array, EMC released an upgrade to its Celerra NAS engine that produces up to four times the performance of previous models along with new iSCSI capabilities that allow remote replication of data over IP.

Dave Donatelli, executive vice president of storage platform operations at EMC, said during a news conference this morning that the DMX-3 array can scale from 96 to 2,400 drives in a single frame for up to 1 petabyte of capacity. "You can grow this online without any disruption to your applications," he said.

The array offers up to three types of Fibre Channel drives: a 500GB lower-cost drive that runs at 7,200 RPM, a 300GB midrange drive that runs at 10,000 RPM, and a 146GB high-end drive that runs at 15,000 RPM.

The three sets of drives can be run simultaneously within a single frame and data can be automatically moved across them using policies based on the age and criticality of the data, according to Ken Steinhardt, director of technology analysis at EMC.

Retail pricing for a DMX-3 with 96 drives and 7TB capacity starts at $250,000.

Jerome Wendt, a senior information systems analyst at a large Midwest data-processing firm, said the DMX-3 is an interesting alternative for shops with high data availability requirements and with concerns about reducing costs, monitoring performance and increasing capacity but with an extremely low tolerance for risk.

"However the ability to mix drives in a single frame is already present in their existing Clariion line which can support different types of [Fibre Channel] drives and SATA drives in a single frame and data can be moved between those disk options as well," he said.

"The DMX also locks you into buying a commodity component from EMC," Wendt said.

Rich Niemiec, CEO of The Ultimate Software Consultants, a Chicago-based systems integrator, and former president of the International Oracle Users Group, was stunned at the sheer capacity of EMC's new array.

In an email response to a Computerworld querry, Niemiec said that when storage vendors started producing terabyte capacity arrays, "companies started building terabyte databases."

"Now that we're seeing petabytes, you know that petabyte databases are just around the corner," he said. "Companies have a voracious appetite for storage, especially with the advent of internet marketing and sales."

Niemiec also pointed to the fact that companies are making more copies of data for immediate recovery purposes, as well as off-site backups and data warehouse copies.

"This will drive up (substantially) the sizes of databases," he wrote.

EMC also announced that it has integrated software from an earlier acquisition that will allow the consolidation of network-attached storage (NAS) systems by using a single global name space. EMC said its RainStorage software virtualizes Windows, Unix and Linux file systems across heterogeneous NAS systems and file servers, making individual boxes appear to be a single unit to a host server. Data can also be moved between physical NAS servers without disrupting business applications.

The RainStorage software came with EMC's August acquisition of Rainfinity Inc. (See story.)

Tony Asaro, an analyst at Milford, Mass.-based Enterprise Strategy Group, said EMC joins a small cadre of vendors offering global name space technology on NAS.

"They're going to use this to simplify their [NAS] environments. But, I can also -- nod-nod, wink-wink -- start to manage NetApp environments as well," Asaro said. "It's a great way for them to become the intelligence layer in front of all these NAS systems."

The upgrade to EMC's Celerra NAS system also allows users to take advantage of so-called "thin provisioning" technology, which allows administrators to automate the provisioning of storage to applications, Steinhardt said.

Using traditional storage provisioning methods, IT managers had to purchase additional capacity up front and overallocate storage to ensure that applications wouldn't suffer from storage limitations. With thin provisioning, applications are only given the disk space they need to store data. The array maintains a buffer of spare disk space and either automatically provisions or alerts systems administrators to allocate more when that buffer starts to run out.

"There's nothing negative in my mind around using thin provisioning. You just have to be smart about it how you implement it," Asaro said.

EMC also announced its Multi-Path File System for iSCSI (MPFSi), which is file-sharing software that boosts the performance of NAS networks by up to four times over earlier system capabilities. MPFSi works by allowing NAS user requests to come in over a standard file systems protocol (CIFS or NFS), but the data is then served to the host using the Internet SCSI protocol.

The MPFSi software also allows data to be replicated between NAS arrays using the iSCSI protocol.

Internet SCSI is a block-based protocol that allows for far greater data transfer rates.

"This allows large objects [files] for things like grid computing or software development to be served up much faster," Steinhardt said.

EMC MPFSi is priced according to the number of servers in the environment. In a maximum configuration, MPFSi lists for $225 per server. EMC Celerra Replicator for iSCSI has a list price of $18,600 per frame. It and the other functionality announced today will be generally available in early March.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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