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EMC Corp.'s Celerra is refreshing its multiprotocol arrays today as expected, with a new series of larger systems featuring file-level data reduction, integration with VMware Inc.'s disaster recovery (DR) application and support for Flash drives.
Integrated primary deduplication for files
The Celerra NS-120, NS-480 and NS-960 will replace the previous NS series models, and the new systems include built-in single instancing through code port from EMC Avamar and RecoverPoint. Brad Bunce, EMC's director of IP storage marketing, said a hashing operation was pulled in from Avamar, while a file-system crawler that identifies inactive files was ported from Kashya to provide automatic, file-level single instancing and policy-based compression on inactive files.
"It's not a bolt-on appliance or running in a separate memory space," Bunce said. "It's integrated in the Celerra base code."
Given the code port, it's not clear why Avamar's sub-file-level deduplication algorithms couldn't be pulled across as well. Bunce said there are plans on the roadmap for block-level dedupe in Celerra (EMC CEO Joe Tucci has pledged to add dedupe to all of the company's storage systems). EMC's principal rival in multiprotocol storage, NetApp, offers sub-file-level deduplication on primary storage volumes, but "there's more efficiency in file-level single instancing for general-purpose systems," Bunce said.
One analyst pointed out that there's a tradeoff to be made between data-reduction ratios and system performance. "In the future, both options could be beneficial for customers," said Steven Scully, research manager, disk storage systems at IDC.
Ready for Site Recovery Manager
The new NS series arrays are ready for integration with a new feature coming soon for VMware's Site Recovery Manager (SRM). The new SRM will offer automated failback, as well as failover for disaster recovery and business continuity purposes, which is a feature SRM users have been waiting for. Bunce said Celerra's replication has been certified to work with the automated failback process by letting VMware's vCenter Server execute replication operations through the array.
VMware isn't launching the new feature for SRM at VMworld Europe 2009 this week as EMC executives expected, but it is on the way. With the new Celerras, EMC is joining competitors, including IBM Corp. and 3PAR Inc., in offering native single instancing of VMware View (formerly VMware Desktop Infrastructure [VDI]) virtual workstation images through integration with Celerra's space-efficient snapshots.
EMC is also adding software features for compliance and system management to Celerra. Customers can set policies at the file-system level that will govern how long individual files are to be retained on the system, while a new non-spoofable clock will prevent deletion or modification of files until their retention period ends. A provisioning wizard will now automatically configure capacity added to the system after initial setup. Previously, Celerra offered automatic provisioning only during initial installation.
Bigger drives, more cache, Flash support
Hardware-wise, the new systems are based on the bigger, beefier Clariion CX4 models announced last year. The NS-120 scales to 120 drives and supports up to two NAS interface blades. The NS-480 scales up to 480 drives and four blades, while the NS-960 scales to 960 drives and up to eight blades. The system will be available as a diskless gateway (the NS-8), which supports up to eight blades and can be used to front Symmetrix and Clariion arrays.
Like the Clariion CX4 and DMX before it, the new NS series will support 73 GB and 146 GB Flash drives. Flash drives will begin shipping for the new NS arrays when they become available this week, according to Bunce.
Entry-level list pricing for an NS-120 with six 300 GB 15,000 rpm Fibre Channel drives, snapshot software, CIFS licenses and a single blade is $37,725.
Overlap among EMC storage systems
As with the CX4, overlap among EMC's storage hardware products with this release has become more pronounced. Like the CX4, the new NS capacity points overlap with the low end of the Symmetrix line, and the underlying Clariion hardware has also been given high-end features in recent years such as active-active controllers, quality-of-service controls and persistent write cache.
EMC launched its Atmos clustered system for file data last year, and that system could be seen as competitive with NAS. In addition, Celerra's compliance features move it onto the home turf of EMC's Centera CAS box. However, Bunce said the Celerra compliance features are meant for a low-end, files-only environment, while Centera offers more advanced application integration and support for block data.
EMC's Tucci said on an earnings call last year that he expects multiprotocol or unified storage systems to dominate the market, especially given the global economy.
EMC has already previewed a planned converged backup, replication and archiving box as a platform for its various data protection software titles. Could something similar be happening to primary storage?
David Hill, founder and principal analyst at Mesabi Group, said there will probably always be a need for specialization, at least in some markets.
"Multiprotocol storage is doing very well, especially for midsized environments," Hill said. "But large organizations that have been Fibre Channel-based aren't going to change, at least for the next few years."
Stay tuned, added Bunce. "You can see more evidence of convergence here, which brings great efficiency to our operations and the offering." That's not coincidence, he said, though going forward, "you'll still see finely differentiated products from EMC."