EMC, Dell Get Small With SATA

The long-awaited AX100 for SMBs is branded a Clariion, but don't let that mislead you

May 26, 2004

3 Min Read
Network Computing logo

EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC) and Dell Computer Corp. (Nasdaq: DELL) unveiled their SAN for SMBs today, a new -- and unconnected -- branch of the Clariion family tree.

EMC calls the new system the Clariion AX100 to distinguish it from the Clariion CX family, which EMC and Dell also co-brand. Dell doesn't even use the Clariion name for the new system. It will sell it as the DellEMC AX100. The distinction is for good reason: The new system uses different hardware and storage management software than other Clariions and is available only with SATA disk drives. For better or worse, rather than just scaling down the CX, EMC and Dell have built a system with a new architecture.

It’s a different set of nuts and bolts,” says Jay Krone, EMC’s director of Clariion marketing, noting that you can’t swap drives and processors between the AX100 and CX.

Put another way, “It’s sort of Clariion, but not Clariion,” says Data Mobility Group senior analyst John Webster.

EMC and Dell have talked about coming out with a Clariion for SMBs since February (see Dell & EMC Prep Low-End SAN and EMC Lets Clariion Out of the Bag). EMC CEO Joe Tucci coyly dropped the system’s code-name “Piranha” during the company’s earnings conference call with analysts last month, and last week EMC again hinted it was coming soon as a complement to its new, Windows-based, entry-level NAS system (see EMC Earnings Up and EMC Joins Rush to Windows NAS).That left only the specs to unveil. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that the AX100 is available only with SATA drives, making it the first Fibre Channel system from a major vendor using SATA for primary storage. The IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) FastT 100 and Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) Modular Smart Array (MSA) 1500 SATA systems are positioned for secondary storage.

“This is going to be primary storage for this part of the market,” Tucci said of SATA. “Unlike a lot of our competition that are announcing (SATA systems) as secondary or near-line storage, we are announcing this is the Real McCoy.”

EMC's use of SATA drives should help keep the price down for the SMB market. EMC will sell the system through its channel partners but estimates pricing for an AX100 with a single controller will start at under $6,000. It is also available in a dual controller configuration and holds up to 12 SATA disks of either 160 GBytes or 250 GBytes. At the top end, it has 3 TBytes of capacity.

Some won't like the fact that, because it uses different components, the AX100 can’t connect to a CX system. If a company or department fills its capacity, it needs to add another AX array. Krone says this shouldn’t be an issue because 3 TBytes is plenty for small companies.

He also touts some connectivity the AX100 does have: A browser-based interface features customized links to the Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD) Silkworm 3250 eight-port Fibre Channel switch and to HBAs from Emulex Corp. (NYSE: ELX) and QLogic Corp. (Nasdaq: QLGC).The AX100's management system supports Microsoft Windows, Linux, and Novell NetWare operating systems; and EMC and Dell claim it takes no support help to install.

The simplicity will go away if one of those SATA drives fails, though. The AX100 uses RAID 5, which tolerates loss of a drive. But rebuilding a failed drive is difficult with RAID 5, leaving a company exposed if a second drive should fail while it rebuilds a 160-GByte or 250-GByte drive.

“They’re going after simplicity, but there’s more risk exposure with SATA,” Webster says. “That’s a tradeoff SMB customers have to look at.”

— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

Stay informed! Sign up to get expert advice and insight delivered direct to your inbox

You May Also Like

More Insights