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Dell/EqualLogic prepares SSD IP SAN

Dell is about to add solid state drive (SSD) support to its EqualLogic iSCSI SANs in a new PS6000 model. As first reported on ChannelWeb last Friday, the PS6000 will also have four Ethernet ports, one more than EqualLogic PS5000 arrays have.

Dell officials did not return requests for comment today by Storage Soup, but several industry sources have confirmed the report is accurate and say the PS6000S will support 16 solid-state drives. A PS6000E will also be available with only SATA drives, according to one customer who asked not to be named because the product has not yet been formally released.

The general opinion on solid state is that customers will hold out for higher capacities and other features before they buy. Several EqualLogic customers reached by Storage Soup today said they still found SATA drives adequate for their needs.

However, according to Alan J. Hunt, Manager of Operations for Dickinson Wright PLLC, “It’s just the beginning of the market. In a few years I suspect [SSDs are] all we’re going to have–it’s kind of the beginning of the next big wave.”

Hunt added that a fourth port on EqualLogic’s arrays could be more significant than it might appear. “A fourth port means you would have balance if you have two switches and want redundancy,” he said. “Or you could make it a dedicated management port and still have three ports.”

Missing from the coming product update, if reports are accurate, would be 10-Gigabit Ethernet support, which a Dell spokesperson said last year is on the EqualLogic roadmap for 2009. But like with SSDs, EqualLogic customers and resellers say 10-Gig Ethernet can wait.

“I haven’t seen a susstantial interest in 10 Gig,” said Broadleaf Services account executive and EqualLogic VAR Christopher Baer. “There aren’t a lot of applications that require that kind of throughput yet.”

Other customers say 10-GigE would future-proof the array, even if they don’t need the bandwidth quite yet. “Why add another port? Why not 10-GigE and really get this thing going?” said a customer in the education field who requested that his name not be used as he is not authorized to speak with the press. Some pieces of the IT infrastructure in this user’s shop have been upgraded to 10-GigE already, including the network backbone.

“I don’t personally need the bandwidth,” Hunt said. “But it could add the ability to reduce the number of cables and passthrough modules for blades, as well as greatly simplifying VMware deployments.”

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