EMC Refreshes NAS, SAN

Adds global namespace and iSCSI to its NAS line

January 27, 2006

3 Min Read
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EMC unveiled a few new software twists to challenge Network Appliances NAS products today as well as its expected upgrade of the Symmetrix DMX-3 high-end SAN system to take on Hitachi Data Systems and IBM. (See EMC Upgrades Symmetrix.)

On the NAS front, EMC added global namespace management to its Rainfinity file virtualization product and iSCSI file sharing and replication for its Celerra platform.

While iSCSI is usually thought of as a SAN protocol, EMC's new IP products are about improving its Celerra NAS rather than its iSCSI Clariion systems.

“We don't consider IP all about SANs. We’re looking at NAS, iSCSI, and Fibre Channel together,” EMC director of technology analysis Ken Steinhardt said in an interview following EMC's product rollout webcast from London. “Customers shouldn’t be hard-locked into one or another.”

That echoes the NetApp unified storage approach, which gives the customers the option of NAS, Fibre Channel, or iSCSI on all of its systems. EMC isn’t about to blur the lines of its Fibre Channel SAN and NAS platforms, but its Multi-Path File System for iSCSI (MPFSi) software will let customers move block and file storage in one system.MPFSi uses the iSCSI protocol to bypass the NAS gateway and move blocks of data over Ethernet. EMC hopes the file system will find a home in grid computing, video editing, and gas and exploration shops.

Steinhardt compares MPFSi to EMC’s old HighRoad software that moved data across SANs or NAS. “You can use NAS and iSCSI simultaneously over the same network infrastructure,” he says of the new software. "We are NAS and iSCSI, and they [NetApp] are NAS or iSCSI."

With the global namespace addition, the Rainfinity Global File Virtualization appliance can span multiple filers so files are not tied to one physical device.

Global namespace is a feature that has been lacking in enterprise NAS systems from EMC and NetApp. It was also one of the major drivers behind acquisitions by both companies. NetApp spent $300 million on Spinnaker in November 2003 for its global namespace and clustering capabilities while EMC grabbed Rainfinity last August for $90 million. (See NetApp Annexes Spinnaker, NetApp Maps NAS Path, and EMC to Buy Rainfinity.)

EMC will make global namespace available next month -- beating NetApp to the punch. NetApp is still working on integrating Spinnaker technology into its Data OnTap operating system and plans to demonstrate the new technology at an analyst day in March but has no ship date set.The extra NAS features come at a cost. Rainfinity Global File Virtualization has a list price of $81,100. MPFSi lists at $225 per server and customers must install agents on their clients. EMC Celerra Replicator for iSCSI has a list price of $18,600 per frame.

On the systems side, EMC will begin shipping a low-end DMX-3 configuration with 96 drives and a high-end system with 2,400 drives capable of holding more than 1 PByte in March. The surprise here was the largest capacity. When EMC first brought out its DMX-3 last August, its plan was to add a 1,926-drive version now and the 2,400-drive system later this year. (See EMC Swells Its High End.) Today it moved up availability of the highest end configuration, which could cost over $1 million.

HDS’ TagmaStore enterprise SAN supports up to 1,062 drives and IBM’s DS8300 supports up to 640 drives. (See Hitachi Struts Mr. Universal and IBM's New Shark Tale.)

“This is the largest storage array ever delivered,” crowed Dave Donatelli, EVP of storage platform operations, during a web cast from London.

One of EMC’s competitors suggests that the system is too big, without the infrastructure to support it. “They’re digging a bigger and deeper hole for when you need to refresh that,” HDS CTO Hu Yoshida says. “When the next product comes out, how do you move 2,400 drives? And there’s nothing about increased connectivity bandwidth or cache.”EMC will also make previously disclosed 500-Gbyte low-cost Fibre Channel drives available in March.

— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

Organizations mentioned in this article:

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • Hitachi Data Systems (HDS)

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • Network Appliance Inc.

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