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New Dell Hardware And Software Aid Data Center Automation

Just in time for year-end stocking (and budget) stuffers, Dell unveiled additions to its EqualLogic PS6000 series of iSCSI storage arrays, including two models that more than double access bandwidth and increase storage capacity to 768TB per group. The company also added a 10Gb Ethernet switch to its PowerConnect line, claiming wire speed on all 24 ports.

Perhaps more significant are new capabilities in Infrastructure Manager, Dell's storage array management software. Infrastructure Manager now automates data center infrastructure tasks such as server connections to LUNs and vLANs, applying physical and virtual server images to bare metal, and basic fail-over detection and remediation. This reduces administration time and the amount of hardware an enterprise must purchase and maintain for high availability and to facilitate disaster recovery

"Fail-over servers are there because applications are critical," says Anthony Dina, Dell's director of solutions marketing. "Infrastructure Manager allows administrators to deploy workload wherever and however they need to without using VMware or Microsoft virtualization technology." In this way, he said, a single fail-over server can take the place of several because they can be instantly provisioned to back up whichever critical application or workload has failed.

Infrastructure Manager automates tasks such as LUN discovery and mounting, physical and virtual server image provisioning, as well as fail-over detection and remediation, reducing admin time and the amount of hardware an enterprise must purchase and maintain for high availability and disaster recovery, says Dina. Dell now offers Infrastructure Manager to OEMs and permits its use for non-Dell hardware, including Cisco Systems and Brocade.

Infrastructure Manager software virtualizes discreet devices such as drives, arrays, controllers and RAID into a single virtual storage pool so it can be administered as a single entity, says Dell senior manager Travis Vigil. "As you grow and put in hardware, EqualLogic firmware virtualizes it across arrays,"simplifying administration and allowing you to [optimize performance] and do automatic load balancing across different RAID types."

That's exactly what was needed at Brivo Systems, which provides building access and security systems. "Our IT department is two people, so management is a big issue," says Matthew Blevins, the company's director of network operations. In late 2008 the company decided to expand into video surveillance, and gave IT about four months to get it done. The idea was to provide customers with AXIS Web-based cameras and record and host the image streams.

Blevins says the company's storage needs were increasing by orders of magnitude, and the existing Fibre Channel arrays wouldn't offer the price/performance to scale. "Since then, our infrastructure has gone from dedicated servers to virtual servers," says Blevins. "Since converting our three other locations to running VMWare and iSCSI, we've reduced our server count by 25 percent and our power usage in half."

EqualLogic arrays are offered in various combinations of 7K SATA, 10K and 15K SAS and SSD drives configured in different RAID levels. The new PS6500X (with firmware 4.2) quadruples per-group capacity of 10K SAS drives to 460TB from 115TB, or to 768TB in the PS6500E. Model PS6010 and PS6510 are equipped with 10GbE connections, up from its 1GbE predecessors, but are still able to coexist in the same SAN. Also able to coexist are your old Fiber Channel arrays thanks to a card from QLogic that Dell will offer beginning Dec. 22. For PowerEdge servers, the dual-port 10Gb converged network adapter converts Fibre Channel SANs into FCoE.