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EMC adds iSCSI support to Clariion

Broadening its push into low-cost storage, EMC announces support for iSCSI across its Clariion line.

EMC has unveiled new versions of its Clariion storage arrays with support for iSCSI, pitching its products into the budding market for low-cost IP SANs.

According to recent research by the Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) as many as 42% of small and medium-sized businesses are planning to implement iSCSI SANs by mid-2006.

To catch up with this wave, EMC has unveiled the AX100i, CX300i and CX500i models, beefing up its iSCSI support across its product line. The Symmetrix DMX, Connectrix SAN switches, Celerra NAS and NetWin systems already support iSCSI.

EMC Clariion iSCSI specifications

AX100i CX300i CX500i
Pricing $6,200 $25,650 $68,075
CPU Processors 2 x 1 GHz 2 x 1.6 GHz Xeon 4 x 1.6 GHz Xeon
Maximum cache 1 GB (standard) 2GB (standard) 4GB (standard)
Maximum capacity (RAW) 3TB 17TB 35TB
Front-end host ports 2 x 1 Gigabit
Ethernet, including
2 x iSCSI TOEs
4 x 1 Gigabit
Ethernet, including
4 x iSCSI TOEs
4 x 1 Gigabit
Ethernet, including
4 x iSCSI TOEs
Back-end disk ports 12 SATA 2 x 2 Gb Fibre Channel 4 x 2 Gb Fibre Channel
Maximum drives 12 60 120
Minimum drives 4 5 5
Drive offering 160 GB, 250 GB SATA 36 GB, 73 GB 15K; 73 GB, 146 GB 10K; 250 GB SATA; 320 GB ATA 36 GB, 73 GB 15K; 73 GB, 146 GB 10K; 250 GB SATA; 320 GB ATA
Form factor 3U 4U 4U
Maximum LUNs 256 512 1024
Maximum snapshots per storage system 4 LUNs 100 LUNs 25 LUNs
Maximum high-availibility hosts 8 64 128
Software AX100 management suite with LUN masking, snapshots and path failover, CHAP security Navisphere Management Suite, LUN masking, SnapView, PowerPath, CLARalert, CHAP security Navisphere Management Suite, LUN masking, SnapView, PowerPath, CLARalert, CHAP security
Hosts Windows 2000, 2003 Windows 2000, 2003 Windows 2000, 2003

"The lower relative implementation cost of IP storage is an important factor for customers wanting to consolidate their IT infrastructure," said David Donatelli, EMC executive vice president of storage platforms operations.

Randy Kerns, senior analyst at the Evaluator Group said EMC's entry into iSCSI with the Clariion legitimizes the market and opens the door to a wider audience. The AX100i and CX500i are available now and CX300i is targeted for general availability in the second quarter this year.

EMC says pricing for the iSCSI-based Clariion is the same as its Fibre Channel (FC) version. This initially raised a few eyebrows among analysts because Ethernet switches are still at 1 Gbps whereas FC is at 2 Gbps and rapidly moving to 4 Gbps for the same price. EMC quickly pointed out that FC systems require host bus adaptors and FC switches, adding a couple thousand dollars to the cost.

Tony Asaro, senior analyst with ESG noted that 1 Gbit Ethernet is half the performance of 2 Gbit FC but that relates to width, not speed. He said very few people are saturating 1 Gbit links. ESG Labs did some testing of both the AX100i and the AX100 and found that depending on the workload there was marginal difference between the products.

Based on Microsoft guidelines for the number of e-mail users, ESG found that performance was just 6% less using iSCSI versus FC. For streaming media the AX100i was about 10% less than the AX100. And for online transaction processing the AX100i was about 20% less.

Asaro added, "Performance will make a difference in bandwidth-intensive applications such as video editing or applications that deal with a lot of very large files at 10 GB or more." However, very few people are using iSCSI for those kinds of applications today.

For when they do, EMC said its products use a TCP/IP Offload Engine or TOE processor that shifts the iSCSI processing off the main CPU. "When you have lots of servers accessing the storage, a TOE can provide a significant performance benefit," Asaro said. EMC supports Microsoft's software initiator on the host side.

Competitors respond

Network Appliance Inc. (NetApp) has been shipping iSCSI support on all its products for a year and claims to have over 1,000 customers and approximately 3,500 downloads of its iSCSI license. It plans to introduce a TOE upgrade to its systems later this year for high-performance applications.

Dave Dale, chairman of the IP Storage Forum at the SNIA and iSCSI evangelist at NetApp said the vast majority of iSCSI deployments to date have been to connect Intel servers running midlevel business applications like Microsoft Exchange and SQL Server. "These workloads don't need TOEs," he said.

EqualLogic's vice president of marketing, John Joseph, compared EMC's iSCSI announcement to a Rube Goldberg design. "They are trying to make a fancy machine out of kitchen utensils," he said. "You can't just add a wire onto a box and call it an IP SAN." Joseph claims EqualLogic's PS Series IP arrays offer more functionality and scalability for less cost.

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