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EMC peps up product line

EMC announced new functionality across its portfolio, most notably raising the bar for NAS and IP storage products.

EMC Corp. announced new configurations and features across its product line Thursday, including a bigger DMX-3, new file system software and NAS virtualization capabilities, and improvements to its Centera archiving software.

None of this stuff [individually] is earth shattering," said Steve Duplessie, senior analyst and founder of the Enterprise Strategy Group. "They are extending their lead by a few steps, lifting the whole ship forward."

Most notably, for Celerra NAS environments, EMC has created a proprietary module that will allow Celerra to respond to NAS requests using either NFS, or if the object warrants it, iSCSI, for up to four times the performance, claimed Ken Steinhardt, EMC director of technology analysis.

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Called MPFSi (Multi Path File System), it is based on EMC's HighRoad software, which allowed Celerra systems to serve up files, either over traditional NAS Ethernet or Fibre Channel. According to Steinhardt, the feature was requested by NAS customers that have all Ethernet infrastructures. For example, ISPs that have performance requirements that go beyond what NFS can offer. Other environments that may benefit from MPFSi include software development, engineering and scientific applications.

MPFSi shouldn't be confused with Network Appliance Inc.'s (NetApp) concept of unified storage, Duplessie noted. In that world, a NetApp filer can indeed house both file and block data, but NAS volumes and iSCSI LUNs are kept separate, and clients must choose which data access method they want to use. With EMC's MPFSi, the client may not have any notion of how it is going to get its data. "It's pretty cool, if it works," Duplessie said.

MPFSi ships as an add-on to Celerra, and requires specialized driver software on Celerra's clients. EMC's not the first to ship this capability. NAS startup Panasas Inc. employs a similar approach with its ActiveScale Storage Cluster, whereby clients can request data over NFS, but for higher performance, can load its proprietary Panasas ActiveScale File System.

Rainfinity virtualization goes global

Since its acquisition of file migration startup Rainfinity Inc. in August, EMC has added global namespace and synchronous IP-based replication capabilities to the software. This brings EMC up to par with NetApp's VFM functionality, which it OEMs from NuView Inc. Both vendors' products enable a unified view of all files and file systems located on heterogeneous file systems on an IP network. Rainfinity adds to EMC's other virtualization offerings, including Invista for SAN-based virtualization (still not shipping) and VMware for server virtualization.

DMX-3 gets bigger

The company also unveiled new configurations for its DMX-3 storage array capable of scaling to over a petabyte (1,024 terabytes [TB]) of capacity. The DMX-3 can support up to 2,400 disk drives and new 500 GB low-cost Fibre Channel disk drives. EMC also introduced an entry-level Symmetrix DMX-3 system configuration. Users can scale from 7 TB, using 96 disk drives, to 1,024 TB with 2,400 disk drives in a single array. EMC began shipping the DMX-3 in August 2005.

In addition to new configurations, the Symmetrix now supports native Gigabit Ethernet for host and remote replication on the DMX-3, eliminating the expense of external channel converters and gateways when replicating large amounts of data over Ethernet networks. Another feature included enhanced support for mainframe environments across all Symmetrix systems, improving the management of these arrays in large mainframe accounts, the company said.

EMC competitor Hitachi Data Systems Inc. (HDS) took the opportunity to weigh in on EMC's news.

"They still can't move data between tiers of storage nondisruptively, and the lack of cache partitioning [means users are] still exposed to someone running away with cache – it's more of a packaging announcement than anything else," said Claus Mikkelson, chief scientist, HDS.

Centera retention improved

Last but not least, enhancements to Centera, EMC's content-addressed storage system include event-based retention and litigation hold software features that give users more flexibility and control over their archived information for regulatory and legal purposes, the company said.

"There were more manual steps to override previous retention periods, now it's simpler," Steinhardt said.

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