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Dell upgrades Compellent's capabilities

Along with launching a new backup deduplication appliance, Dell made other storage additions and enhancements today in London at its first Europe Dell Storage Forum. The biggest rollout, besides the DR4000 backup box, was an upgrade to Compellent Storage Center 6.0 software with new 64-bit support that doubles memory size.

The upgrade -– along with extended VMware support –- is part of Dell’s strategy to make the Compellent Fibre Channel SAN platform a better fit for the enterprise. The 64-bit support is a precursor to the addition of Ocarina Networks’ primary data reduction technology to Compellent systems, because deduping and compressing data will require more processing power. Another advantage for Compellent 6.0’s 64-bit support is it enables tiering data in smaller block sizes to automatically tier data more efficiently.

Compellent also now supports the full copy offload and hardware-assisted locking features that are part of VMware vSphere Storage APIs for Array Integration (VAAI). The storage vendor also added a Dell Compellent Storage Replication Adapter (SRA) for VMware’s Site Recovery Manager 5, and vSphere 5 Client Plug-in and Enterprise Manager to help manage virtualized storage pools with the latest version of vSphere.

Randy Kerns, senior strategist for the Evaluator Group IT consultant firm, said the 64-bit support will enable Compellent to better take advantage of next-generation Intel chip advances. He said that’s a nice benefit because of Compellent’s architecture and licensing model. “People underestimate the importance of this, but Compellent is about storage as an application and the applications are loaded on powerful Intel servers,” he said. “With Compellent, you buy a license and you don’t have to re-buy a license when you upgrade. This also lets them track the new technology brought out by Intel and leverage Intel’s research and development.”

Before the Dell acquisition, Compellent sold into the midrange. Dell already has the EqualLogic platform for the midrange and is looking for something more competitive with EMC VMAX, Hewlett-Packard 3PAR, IBM DS8000, Hitachi Data Systems Universal Storage Platform and NetApp FAS6200 systems. But to become a true enterprise option, Compellent may have to scale beyond its current two-controller limit.

“When Dell did not get 3PAR, Compellent was the only option left worth looking at, but it doesn’t go high enough,” said Arun Taneja, consulting analyst for the Taneja Group. “Dell is feverishly working on taking Compellent upstream. One of the elements needed is 64-bit support. But to compete with the likes of 3PAR and VMAX, Compellent has to go to more than two controllers. What if Dell cannot take it to four or eight controllers, what are they going to do? The next 12 months will be telling. For five years, the Compellent people have been telling me they can go beyond two controllers. We’ll find out if they were telling the truth.”

Dell also added support for 10-Gigabit Ethernet Force10 switches on its EqualLogic iSCSI SAN platform and support of Brocade 16-Gbps Fibre Channel switches for Compellent.

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