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EMC: No plans to kill Clariion

EMC denies widespread speculation in the enterprise data storage industry that it's planning to phase out Clariion SAN systems in favor of Celerra multiprotocol storage.

EMC Corp. said it's not planning to phase out its Clariion midrange storage-area network (SAN) disk system in favor of Celerra multiprotocol storage, despite speculation running through the enterprise data storage industry.

A few EMC employees posted denials on Twitter Thursday after the rumor showed up in posts, and an EMC spokesman emphatically denied to that there were plans to consolidate Clariion and Celerra or kill off one of them.

"The speculation is not true," EMC declared in the statement. "EMC's midrange storage lines, Clariion and Celerra, are market-leading, flagship EMC platforms. Clariion and Celerra each experienced double-digit revenue growth in EMC's fourth quarter of 2009. It's clear that customers get tremendous value from these platforms, and we are increasing our investment and innovation in them."

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EMC reported last week that for the first calendar quarter of 2010, Clariion revenues were up 15% from the previous quarter, while Celerra had its 11th consecutive quarter of double-digit revenue growth, with revenues up 50% sequentially.

The two product lines already share technical underpinnings: Clariion hardware forms the back end of the Celerra architecture. It's made into a multiprotocol storage system with the addition of a Celerra network-attached storage (NAS) head, either as a gateway or integrated into the array.

The rumor spread around the Web this week suggested that EMC plans to discontinue marketing Clariion as a separate standalone platform, instead throwing in a Celerra NAS head with every midrange system shipped. There was also speculation that EMC planned to officially announce it would end-of-life Clariion in the fourth quarter of this year.

There has been a lot of speculation about EMC consolidating its products over the last few years, centering largely on a plan to more deeply integrate Clariion and Symmetrix disk arrays. But while the capacity lines between those products have blurred, they have remained separate. Two years ago, EMC officials briefed customers at a forum event on plans to develop a universal data backup and archive appliance, but at last year's EMC World, the company issued another statement saying that product officially wasn't coming, either.

Celerra turning heads, but Clariion loyalists remain

The Celerra does seem to be gaining popularity where Clariions have been sold before. Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center storage architect Michael Passe said he bought an EMC Celerra NS-960 in December rather than a standalone Clariion CX-4. Passe said the new NS systems have enough ports to connect Fibre Channel (FC) directly to the back-end Clariion while maintaining NAS and iSCSI connections through the Celerra NAS head. Clariion's storage ports are on a separate private network between the Celerra head and the Clariion back-end, which Passe said gives him greater peace of mind when it comes to security.

Passe also cited management simplicity as an advantage of deploying the multiprotocol storage array instead of a standalone Clariion. "To me, the clear advantage of the unified system is that you can do anything over any protocol you need," he said. "NAS is certainly easier to manage than block, so applications that can use iSCSI or NFS instead could save money on cabling and simplify, but as your needs grow in terms of I/O, you can then still provide disk with the same device with a switch to Fibre Channel. If you throw in their FAST and coming FAST 2 [automated tiering software] technology, this could be a very cost-effective way to serve up tier 1 application performance with midrange arrays."

Another NS customer, Fastenal Company Purchasing storage administration lead David Dulek, said having Clariion's storage ports behind the NAS head is also a security advantage for him. "I haven't heard anything about replacing [Clariion with Celerra], but if they did, it wouldn't bother me greatly, if only to simplify all their model numbers," he said.

Meanwhile, David Grant, a data center manager with a large communications company he requested not be identified, said he prefers the standalone Clariion option to remain available for virtual server environments. "I don't really see what the driver is [for discontinuing Clariion] as it seems to go against what I'm seeing as an emerging trend," he said. According to Grant, the trend is "virtualization to enable storage as a service, the storage cloud, plus the various offerings around virtual SAN appliances that enable smaller players to stitch together existing pools into virtual SANs and enjoy the benefits of SAN functionality such as snaps, replication, centralized provisioning and such like."

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