IBM beefs up midrange storage arrays with 8 Gig FC, iSCSI, self-encrypting drives

Todd Erickson

IBM has upgraded its midrange disk array storage systems, rolling out the IBM System Storage DS5020 Express with support for 8 Gbps Fibre Channel (FC), iSCSI

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and self-encrypting drives.

The DS5020 Express is based on LSI Corp.'s Engenio 4900 that IBM sells through an OEM deal. It replaces the DS4700, which IBM plans to sell through the rest of 2009 and support for at least five years.

Harold Pike, IBM's DS5020 offering manager, said the new unit is designed for virtualized environments that support multiple applications. "When you do that, what you really need is a product that has tremendous mixed workload capabilities," he said.

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The System Storage DS5020 Express supports up to 112 FC or SATA drives with EXP520 expansion units, and up to eight 8 Gbps FC or 1 Gbps iSCSI host ports. The DS4700 only offered up to four 4 Gbps FC host connections. The 5020 also provides auto-negotiate Fibre Channel connection speeds so it can be integrated into an existing 2 Gbps or 4 Gbps environment, and adjust when 8 Gbps FC is implemented.

Mark Peters, an analyst at Milford, Mass.-based Enterprise Strategy Group, said storage vendors are under pressure to produce more powerful systems in virtualized environments without large price increases. "There's a big emphasis in the midrange right now on adding functionality without adding price," he said. "The nature of the world is that things get bigger and faster and more capable, and this is bigger and faster and more capable than the DS4700 was."

The System Storage DS5020 Express also supports up to 4 GB of cache memory, self-encrypting drives from Seagate Technology Inc., hot-swappable capacity expansion, up to 128 storage partitions, as well as dual-redundant, hot-swappable cooling fans.

The midrange system competes primarily with EMC Corp.'s Clariion CX4 Model 120 and Hewlett-Packard (HP) Co.'s StorageWorks 4400 Enterprise Virtual Array.

While IBM has added 8 Gbps FC capability to this model, iSCSI could be the protocol to grow most in customer adoption. The firm's Pike said iSCSI interest is "really starting to hit now" in the midrange. "It's a segment of the market that we think is very, very important and growing very rapidly," he said.

The IBM System Storage DS5020 Express is available for shipment on Sept. 4. Pricing starts at $22,500.

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