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Dell officially launches PS6000 iSCSI SANs

Dell adds solid-state drive support and claims its hardware redesign will improve the performance of its EqualLogic IP SAN systems.

As expected, Dell Inc. launched a new series of iSCSI storage-area networks (SANs) today, promising faster performance through a hardware redesign and support for solid-state drives (SSDs).

The EqualLogic PS6000 series adds cache and faster chips on its controller to make it ready for 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10 GbE). The series also offers new eight-drive and 16-drive SSD modules, software integration with Hyper-V, a new performance monitoring tool and a modified support structure.

The series will be available in five models that all use the same redesigned controllers with a faster chip and more cache than previous EqualLogic systems. As a result, Dell estimates a 91% improvement in sequential write performance and a 29% improvement in sequential reads. Travis Vigil, senior manager of Dell storage, said the performance bump lays the groundwork for 10 GbE support in the near future.

Last week, EqualLogic customers evaluating the PS6000 told that they're willing to wait for 10 GbE support, saying the protocol is seen as "future-proofing" the array rather than solving an immediate problem.

The PS6000E contains either eight or 16 7,200 rpm SATA drives in 250 GB, 500 GB and 1 TB capacities, and is available with single or dual controllers. The other models are dual-controller systems. The PS6500E contains 48 SATA drives in either 500 GB or 1 TB capacities. The PS6000X holds 16 10,000 rpm, 400 GB SAS drives, while the PS6000XV uses 15,000 rpm SAS. The PS6000S is EqualLogic's first system to use solid-state drives.

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The PS6000S is available in two models, one with eight Samsung 50 GB SSDs for a total capacity of 400 GB, and another with 16 of the drives for a total capacity of 800 GB.

Vigil said because the EqualLogic SAN aggregates the performance of its modular arrays, Dell can get away with "slightly" fewer high-performance drives that provide better cost per gigabyte than competitors. "If you look at competitive SSD offerings, they've chosen very, very expensive SSD drives," he said.

Dell's approach is too rich for some customers, however. David Stevens, storage manager for computing services at Pittsburgh-based Carnegie Mellon University, today reiterated what he told earlier this month – he's waiting for the drives to be available in higher capacities before considering them.

New software updates

Stevens said he's most interested in the new SAN Headquarters software Dell is releasing with the PS6000 series. SAN Headquarters helps administrators track performance data over multiple groups of SANs. Before, performance monitoring was only available for EqualLogic within the same local SAN group. The new client-based tool can support up to 32 SAN groups on a 32-bit system with no stated maximum limit on the number of systems that can be monitored with 64-bit servers.

"They're not doing anything fancy that can't be done by people with the time and resources to do this internally," said Stevens, who described the tool as pulling SNMP data from the EqualLogic devices for reporting. However, he also said he's been a beta tester of the product and plans to use it. "We could've done it, but when we found they were going to do it, we decided not to—it saves us time and money for them to do it."

The tool could also come in handy for customers looking to deploy the new SSD array, according to Stephanie Balaouras, principal analyst at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research. "I think it will help customers see the value from their SSD deployments or before they have deployed SSD drives," she said. "It will give them the ability to target applications and workloads with performance problems that would benefit from SSD."

Dell is also beta testing a module that supports snapshots within Microsoft Hyper-V virtual hosts. Dell already has Microsoft and VMware snapshot integration software modules that allow users to control snapshot scheduling from the application server. Vigil said the Hyper-V module should be available in a few weeks.

Dell overhauls services

Dell also announced today it's replacing its previous services offerings that corresponded to individual hardware products with a new multilevel model designed to customize support for different kinds of customers. Customers must choose between Dell ProSupport for End-Users and Dell ProSupport for IT, and then select one of three service-level agreements (SLAs) for service—next business day, four-hour or two-hour, with a six-hour repair guarantee.

Dell is also adding storage deployment services such as SAN design and networking, local snapshots, asynchronous replication for disaster recovery, and a service to integrate the EqualLogic SAN with Symantec Corp. and CommVault backup software.

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