• 01/20/2012
    12:32 PM
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Dell Moves Ahead Fluidly in Storage

The IT industry is always adapting to new trends, from client-server and the PC revolution of the '80s and '90s to cloud computing and big data today. These trends inspire successful new vendor entrants, but they can also be problematic for established IT vendors. Over time, some leaders don't adapt and die (see Digital Equipment Corporation), while others swoon and survive in a reduced state by being acquired by larger saviors (see Sun Microsystems).

One criticism that could be leveled at most if not all large IT vendors with strong storage portfolios is that they have multiple, overlapping product lines that can result in customer confusion, as well as inefficiencies. However, this criticism is misplaced. Large vendors typically work with a broad range of customers with often radically different requirements for storage performance, capacity, software and management functionalities. For these businesses, one-size-fits-all storage architectures are neither economically nor operationally feasible. What they need, however, is for vendors to articulate how all the disparate product lines play as a whole and fit into the vendor's vision of a storage future.

Dell's storage vision is clearly illustrated in its Fluid Data architecture, a schema that emphasizes efficiency and agility through intelligent data management. Let's make that abstract statement real with a pair of concrete examples from the company's recent announcement that illustrate the point:

Dell's new Compellent Storage Center 6.0, its next-generation architecture for the Compellent storage array systems, is built on a 64-bit operating system instead of a 32-bit operating system. What does that mean? Recall that storage controllers have CPUs built-in that manage the array. Obviously they have an operating system. In the case of Dell Compellent, that is a Linux-based operating system that can be non-disruptively updated, allowing customers to more easily gain the advantages of future improvements. The use of a 64-bit OS also gives significant performance and ability to scale capacity advantages. That coupled with storage management software as in copy and thin provisioning unmapping capabilities supports storage efficiency that Dell feels gives them a good story vis a vis competitors. Dell is also pushing server consolidation, so improvements in VMware integration with Storage Center 6.0 is another example of the new Compellent architecture's agility.

The Dell DR4000 disk backup appliance emphasizes built-in deduplication, compression, and replication using technology acquired in the Ocarina deal. According to Dell, the DR4000's ability to eliminate redundant files can reduce disk capacity requirements by up to 15 times, and deliver similar reductions in bandwidth requirements. Along with lowering backup storage costs to as low as $0.25/GB (list pricing) the DR4000 can also significantly reduce the footprint of backup in the data center, thus delivering significant power and cooling savings. The DR4000 gets Dell into a major competitive area of the storage market while leveraging its Fluid Data architecture strategy and emphasizing storage efficiency (TCO improvements over the existing architecture) and agility (both local and remote replication).

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