EMC to refresh Symmetrix DMX

EMC is preparing to launch bigger and badder versions of its flagship Symmetrix array.

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SearchStorage.com has learned EMC Corp. will likely announce new versions of its Symmetrix DMX arrays next Monday, July 25. The two new models, the DMX3500 and DMX4500, will be the first new DMXes in almost 18 months.

Among the new Symmetrix features are 4 Gbps Fibre Channel (FC) host-side connectivity, more raw capacity and greatly increased global cache. Also expected are improvements to its Symmetric Remote Data Facility (SRDF) and improved snapshot capabilities for Unix-based hosts.

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Symmetrix's global cache will increase from 256 gigabytes (GB) to 512 GB, sources say. More to the point, EMC has been working on fixing Symm's Achilles' heel: its lack of mirrored cache, which in the case of a memory failure can result in data loss. With the new cache architecture, "that competitive argument has been vaporized," said an industry source who requested anonymity. It's unclear whether the new cache architecture will be available as part of this release, or at a later date.

Capacity increases, meanwhile, will come from two fronts: bigger disk drives and more of them. The company is expected to announce support for 146 GB 15,000 rpm drives, and will increase the total number of drives in a DMX3500 to 1,440, and 1,920 in the DMX4500.

The new Symm models will also support Seagate Corp.'s low-cost FC drive, the 400 GB, 7,200 rpm NL35. An alternative to SATA drives, the NL35 is designed to enable low-cost, high-capacity tiers of storage without having to re-architect FC-based disk shelves to accept the desktop drives. Other storage vendors to offer these drives are Hewlett-Packard Co. with its EVA family, and Xiotech Corp. with its Magnitude 3D.

Symmetrix DMX was first introduced in February 2003, and was updated with the DMX-2 platform a year later. Existing DMX models range from the modular rackmount DMX800 with up to 120 disk drives, to the DMX3000, a triple-bay system with up to 256 GB of total global cache, and up to 576 disk drives.

Yet to be determined is whether the new Symms will take a step toward increasing modularization. Hitachi Data Systems (HDS), a competitor, made a significant move in that direction this week with a trimmed-down version of its TagmaStore Universal Storage Platform (USP). Dubbed the NSC55, it packs a global cache, and up to 48 FC and 16 FICON and ESCON ports into a 19" rackmount form factor. Yet the NSC55 can virtualize up to 16 petabytes of external storage, including EMC Symmetrix.

Products like HDS' NSC55 reflect the industry trend "to make monolithic storage more and more modular," said Arun Taneja, president of the Taneja Group, Hopkinton, MA. Historically, the distinction between modular and monolithic storage has been the number of controllers -- modular storage was limited to one or two, while monolithic storage has many. "Ideally, you'd like to be able to start with one controller and go up to infinity," he said, but instead, "the general trend is to bring monolithic architectures down." Taneja would not comment whether or not the new Symmetrix models would follow that trend.

The Symmetrix refresh comes at a time when EMC may be facing declining high-end sales. A research note put out last week by Merrill Lynch revised revenue estimates downward based on weaker-than-expected Symmetrix sales. Going forward, Merrill Lynch forecasts Symmetrix sales to drop by 6% in the second quarter rather than the previously thought 2%.

A new Symmetrix announcement will come a day before an IBM Corp. press and analyst event in New York City, in which IBM is expected to unveil plans to standardize storage virtualization. Sources say Veritas Software Corp., now Symantec, will be among IBM's partners.

EMC has also scheduled a press and analyst day on August 4 in New York City, at which point it is expected to announce enhancements to its Clariion midrange modular line.

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