EMC Corp. is transplanting features from its high-end Symmetrix line into its midrange Clariion systems as an increasing number of its users choose the cheaper product over its high-end models to support large, complex environments. The upgrade comes a week after EMC upgraded the Symmetrix.
New versions of the Clariion, dubbed CX300s, CX500s and CX700s (the "s" standing for scale) are built with point-to-point connectivity between the disk drives and storage controllers, replacing the older Fibre Channel arbitrated loop (FC-AL) architecture. The new components improve fault isolation, as the system can detect when a disk drive is about to fail -- something more difficult to do in an FC-AL implementation. EMC calls this point-to-point technology "UltraPoint" and is careful to note that it's not a switched design, which is the ultimate architecture for redundancy.
"Customers are under pressure to continually scale their environments and to increase the speed and recovery of their data," said Barry Ader, senior director of Clariion marketing at EMC. Users can upgrade existing Clariion models with the new disk array enclosures that support UltraPoint.
"The mid-tier is clearly taking on requirements of the high end as customers can see they can get by with a cheaper box," said Randy Kerns, an independent storage analyst. However, "the Clariion is still a dual-controller technology; it's a 20-year old design that they continue to add capabilities to." He contrasts this to Hitachi Data Systems' (HDS) recent introduction of the NSC55, which is a smaller version of its high-end TagmaStore controller, aimed at the midrange. "The difference is that EMC has two sets of research and development investments in two different product lines -- Hitachi only has one." The idea being that it should be much easier and faster for HDS to introduce new features across its product line. EMC's Adler insists that its users like having a separate product for each category.
Software enhancementsNew Clariion software functionality includes a virtual logical unit number (LUN) capability that enables users to move data within a Clariion without disrupting the application. "Now you can move data from Fibre Channel to ATA drives as the value of data changes over time, as well as move data to higher performing drives as they become available," Ader said. Eventually, EMC will offer policy automation around this technology but was unable to give a timeframe for this capability.
To improve the replication capabilities of its SnapView and MirrorView products, EMC has added support for consistency groups. This maintains data coherency across multiple volumes during point-in-time and remote copies. "We've had this functionality in the Symmetrix, but it's become a necessary feature for the mid-tier," Ader said. In addition, EMC doubled the number of LUNs that can be copied, from 50 to 100 in MirrorView, and 100 to 200 using SnapView.
SAN Copy/E, an upgrade to SAN Copy, allows users to replicate between the CX Series and the Clariion AX100. Previously, users could only replicate between the CX500 and CX700. The new software allows movement of data from edge locations like branch offices to a core location, such as a central data center for backup, recovery and reporting purposes, the company said. Clariion management software, Navisphere Manager, has been upgraded to manage AX100 and CX Series systems from one console.
VTL upgradeEMC also announced four new models of its Clariion Disk Library virtual tape product, which is built on FalconStor Software Inc.'s virtual tape library (VTL) software running on the Clariion. The DL300 and DL700 are being replaced with the DL310 and DL710, and the company is introducing two new models, the DL720 and DL740, the latter with dual controllers. A new "write cache consolidation" feature enables the aggregation of small blocks of data into larger, 1 MB chunks to deliver increased aggregate throughput speeds. This should result in faster operations for backup, restores and archiving to tape, the company claims.
Clariion is one of EMC's fastest selling product lines, delivering a 32% year-on-year revenue increase in the second quarter this year, the tenth quarter of more than 30% growth for this product.EMC is expected to announce more details on its Clariion sales, including traction in the iSCSI market at its analyst day Thursday.