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EMC brushes up DMX

EMC adds mirrored cache, introduces modular architecture, online host-based migration software and in-the-box tiered storage for ILM.

As expected, EMC Corp. announced this week the seventh generation of its Symmetrix storage array, the DMX-3, which it hopes will revive its sales at the high end of the market. The new system will begin shipping in September.

Symmetrix sales still account for the majority of EMC's system revenue, but this product line is rapidly being eclipsed by its Clariion midrange systems. Last week EMC reported Symmetrix revenue of $678 million for the quarter, up 4% from a year ago, while midrange Clariion revenue shot up 32% to $431 million.

However, "As the cost points on these bigger systems come down, we are expecting the high-end growth to improve," said Joe Tucci, chief executive officer of EMC.

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A key enabler of this growth will likely be the new more modular architecture unveiled with the DMX-3, which separates the drives and controllers from the overall system. For the first time, EMC DMX users will be able to add capacity with additional drive bays and performance by adding another disk director. "There's no need to buy additional arrays," said David Donatelli, executive vice president of storage platform operations at EMC.

Users can buy disk directors, which transfer data from disk to cache, in pairs of three or four (users with three pairs of disk directors can add another pair at a later date). The three-pair configuration offers a minimum of 360 drives and a maximum of 720, eventually scaling to 1,440 drives. The four-pair configuration starts with 480 drives and scales up to 960, ultimately hitting 1,920 drives.

In combination with the new disk directors, EMC has also doubled its cache and fixed a vulnerability exposed by its old proprietary caching technique that wasn't mirrored. "Think of our old approach as like RAID-5 and the new method as mirroring," explained Barry Burke, senior director of Symmetrix marketing at EMC.

Robert Stevenson, technology strategist with Nielson Media Research, a major EMC Symmetrix user, noted that the memory footprint actually stays the same. In other words, users still only get 256 GB usable cache that's now mirrored for a total of 512 GB. "There's no improvement to application performance, it's an availability strategy," Stevenson said. EMC's rationalization for its move to mirrored cache was that its sources for SD-RAM were drying up, prompting its move to mirrored double-data rate memory.

In future releases EMC expects to get more granular with the way it can divvy up cache between different resources in the array -- a feature Hitachi Data Systems and IBM already offer today.

Online host-based migration

EMC also introduced two new migration products: Open Migrator/LM software, which provides online data migration from heterogeneous storage systems in Windows and UNIX environments to EMC storage, and EMC/Softek Logical Data Migration Facility (LDMF) software, developed jointly by EMC and Softek Storage Solution Corp., for online relocation of mainframe data at the dataset level.

Until LDMF storage administrators performed dataset level migrations -- equivalent to moving files in a file system in the open systems world -- manually. This was a tedious process and prone to error. LDMF is an extension of Softek's TDMF volume-level mainframe migration software combined with EMC's catalogue management software that keeps a table of how all the data is laid out.

These new host-based migration products will compete with EMC's recently introduced Invista box, a network-based virtualization and data migration product. "We're not sure everyone wants to do it the same way … some customers believe doing it in the network makes sense … also Invista does not support mainframe environments," Burke said.

Tiered storage in-the-box

Beating the ILM drum, EMC noted that DMX-3 will support 15,000, 10,000 and 7200 RPM Fibre Channel (FC) drives in the same box. The new low-cost FC drives, built by Seagate Technology Inc., are expected to be available early 2006, which EMC said will enable tiered storage in a single system.

The specification for the DMX-3 doubles the processing power (130 1.3 GHz PowerPC chips), internal bandwidth (128 GBps) and memory capabilities (512 GB of global cache) of the DMX-2 and once 500 GB drives become available, will boost the internal system capacity to over a petabyte, EMC said.

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