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Dell prepares for 10-gig iSCSI, FCoE

Dell is adding support for 10-Gigabit Ethernet and making other enhancements to its EqualLogic iSCSI SAN arrays as part of today’s launch of 10-GigE products throughout its networking and storage platforms.

Dell has turned its $1.4 billion 2008 acquisition of EqualLogic into the iSCSI market lead, with 34% share according to IDC’s Storage Tracker figures for the third quarter. Today it unveiled a larger capacity system, the EqualLogic PS6500X, and added 10-gigE controllers to its PS6010 and PS6510 arrays. Dell will also support 100 GB SSDs (it currently offers 50 GB SSDs) on EqualLogic PS6510S arrays.

The 6500X with 10,000 rpm SAS drives can scale to 16 nodes per group (up from 12 in previous systems) for 460TB of capacity per group. The 16-drive PS6010 and 48-drive 6510 systems support two 10-gigE ports per controller for a total of four 10-GigE ports per system. Current EqualLogic customers will be able to add a 10-gigE node to upgrade.

Along with 10-GigE iSCSI, Dell is adding Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) support through storage networking partners QLogic and Brocade. Dell will begin shipping the QLogic 8152 converged network adapter (CNA) for Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) for PowerEdge servers and the QLogic 8142 mezzanine card CNA for PowerEdge blades this month, and Brocade DCX Fibre Channel, 8000 series FCoE and RX Ethernet switches in February.

Despite making a splash around its 10-gigE support, Dell senior manager Travis Vigil said he expects a slow migration from gigabit Ethernet. He says early adopters will be in one of two groups: customers running heavy database workloads and those with many virtual servers.

“There’s a small vocal group of customers interested in 10-gig, and they tend to be customers running sequential workloads,” Vigil said. “Also, a lot of virtual environments need bandwidth for 10-gig servers. We think it will be a small but growing course of adoption over the next couple of years.”

Analysts say organizations want to know their vendor has 10-gigE available for an upgrade path, but won’t necessarily rush out to upgrade. iSCSI has grown substantially in recent years largely with GigE, although Hewlett-Packard reports 10-GigE adoption if its LeftHand Networks iSCSI SANs.

Forrester Research senior analyst Andrew Reichman said having 10-gigE capability paves the way for converged Fibre Channel and Ethernet networks. “Unified fabrics between the SAN and LAN will happen with 10-gig, not 1-gig Ethernet,” he said. “For iSCSI to be a viable contender in unified traffic, it has to support the jump to 10-gig. Because it runs at 1-gig now, it can be a gradual transition and less disruptive than FCoE.”

IDC research manager for storage systems Natalya Yezkhova says she doesn’t anticipate an immediate boost in adoption of 10-gigE but sees it implemented in high volumes by 2011.

“In two or three years, 10-gig will largely replace 1-gig,” she said. “I don’t expect iSCSI growth will accelerate with 10-gig, it will be more an an organic replacement [of GigE systems]. It’s no surprise Dell is doing this based on its focus on iSCSI the past two years.”

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