EMC Uncages 4-Gig Clariions

Unveils midrange platform, says world is ready for 4-Gig SANs

May 8, 2006

3 Min Read
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EMC entered the 4-Gbit/s era today, launching its long-awaited and much discussed new Clariion platform. (See EMC Refreshes Clariion and Dell Delivers 4-Gig Clariion.)

EMC brought out the CX3-20, CX3-40, and CX3-80 UltraScale midrange systems, which replace its Clariion CX 300, CX 500, and CX 700 systems. The new systems -- collectively code-named "Sledgehammer" -- have 4-Gbit/s connections on the front end and the back end, and twice the cache of their predecessors. Here the stats:

  • The CX3-20 has 4 Gbytes of cache and holds up to 120 disks for 59 Tbytes

  • The CX3-40 has 8 Gbytes of cache and up to 240 disks for 119 Tbytes

  • The CX3-80 has 16 Gbytes of cache and up to 480 disks for 239 Tbytes

Starting prices range from $27,000 for the CX3-20 to $101,000 for the CX3-80. All systems are now available.

Until now, EMC publicly resisted 4-Gbit/s systems -- claiming true 4-Gbit/s Fibre Channel calls for hard drives that are still unavailable. While 4-Gbit/s systems can support that rate on the front end between server and controller, EMC points out, they can't do so from the controller to the drives.

This limitation hasn't stopped EMC's midrange competitors from releasing systems that support front-end 4-Gbit/s FC. IBM has sold 4-Gbit/s midrange systems through an OEM deal with LSI Logic's Engenio systems division since last June, and Hewlett-Packard and Hitachi Data Systems have also predated EMC's 4-Gbit/s entry.Today, though, EMC claims to be breaking new ground. "We're the first ones shipping end-to-end four-gig technology," says Dave Donatelli, EMC's EVP of storage platforms.

Well, not really. Engenio today launched three midrange 4-Gbit/s systems with faster hard drives to match. Engenio's new systems follow its release of systems based on its 4-Gbit/s controller, systems that IBM, SGI, and Sun have been selling since last year. (See LSI Expands 4-Gig Family, Engenio Goes 4-Gig for HPC and IBM Drives 4-Gbit/s.

Even without end-to-end 4-Gbit/s capability, early adopters could take advantage of the extra bandwidth by connecting more servers to their storage. Engenio claims more than 3,000 of its 4-Gbit/s systems have sold. Industry sources say most of those sales have been through IBM.

"IBM has done pretty well with four-gig systems," analyst Charles King of Pund-IT says. "EMC has tended to go to market slowly with trendy technology. You miss the early adopters that way, but it's probably more important to go out with the product you're comfortable with instead of going after the low-hanging fruit."

The wait for new Clariions cost EMC revenue early this year, according to CEO Joe Tucci. (See Tucci Talks Up EMC's Future.)But EMC spokespeople insist there is more to its new systems than just 4-Gibt/s capacity. The systems use a new storage processor that EMC claims alleviates bottlenecks from controller to storage. They also use all-Fibre Channel drives, including low-cost proprietary drives that replace SATA inside the CX3 platform.

The new Clariions let customers mix 2-Gbit/s and 4-Gbit/s drives in the same enclosures, and EMC says customers can install and upgrade systems themselves if they choose. Unlike the previous Clariion family, the CX-3 systems support the same software.

"These are all new, top to bottom," Tucci says of the CX3 platform.

One thing: For now, the new systems lack the native iSCSI connectivity that the CX300 and CX500 support. iSCSI versions of the new system won't be available before the second half of the year. Then again, EMC isn't one to rush a new approach.

Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and SwitchOrganizations mentioned in this article:

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • Hitachi Data Systems (HDS)

  • Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • LSI Logic Corp. (NYSE: LSI)

  • Pund-IT Inc.

  • SGI

  • Sun Microsystems Inc.

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