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Dell moves into storage blades with EqualLogic arrays

Dell opens its Storage Forum 2012 by launching EqualLogic storage blades in an attempt to take its iSCSI SAN platform into the enterprise.

BOSTON -- Dell Inc. launched its first storage blades -- the Dell EqualLogic PS-M4110 Blade Arrays -- packaged with PowerEdge blade servers and Force10 MXL switches in a 10U chassis at its second annual Dell Storage Forum 2012 this week.

Dell also gave its Compellent SAN new unified storage capability through an appliance to handle file storage, and added Compellent storage to its vStart converged infrastructure platform. Previous vStart configurations all included EqualLogic storage.

Dell isn’t first with storage blades or a converged storage platform by a long shot, but claims its storage blades are easier to configure and denser than the competitions'.

“We're pretty late to the game, but I like to say that we passed everyone up,” said Darren Thomas, Dell’s vice president and general manager of enterprise storage.

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The EqualLogic PS-M4110 Blade Array will be available in the second half of the year. There will be four models, with different drive types and capacity points. Each model holds up to four EqualLogic blades.

The PS-M4110E will have one or two controllers and 500 GB or 1 TB 7,200 rpm SAS drives for up to 14 TB per EqualLogic array and 56 TB per chassis. The PS-M4110X includes 600 GB or 900 GB 10,000 rpm SAS drives for 12.6 TB per array and 50.4 TB in the chassis. The PS-4110XV includes 146 GB or 300 GB 15,000 rpm drives for up to 4.2 TB per array and 16.8 TB per chassis. The PS-M4110XS is a hybrid with flash along with hard drives. It includes nine 600 GB 10,000 rpm SAS drives and five 400 GB solid-state drives (SSDs) for 7.4 TB per array and 29.6 TB per chassis.

All the blades use 2.5-inch drives. The PS-M4110XS is a two-controller configuration, while the others come with one or two controllers. Each controller supports two EqualLogic storage blades.

As with all EqualLogic systems, the blades use the iSCSI Ethernet SAN block protocol.

“It’s a full EqualLogic product in everything but the form factor,” said Travis Vigil, executive director for Dell storage. “You can scale in a chassis in two groups and can scale outside the chassis up to two petabytes of storage.”


The devices’ chassis are fitted with full-height, half-height and quarter-height slots for higher density. Each device includes Dell PowerEdge 11th and 12th generation blade servers and Dell Force10 MXL switches that support Gigabit Ethernet, 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10 GbE) or 40 GbE FlexIO modules.

“It’s one of the best examples of convergence I’ve seen so far,” said George Crump, president of analyst firm Storage Switzerland. “It’s from one vendor when the other guys did convergence with partnerships. Dell is getting the simplicity factor. Plus, it brings EqualLogic into the enterprise. Now it’s in convergence infrastructure, and convergence is typically thought of as an enterprise play.”

Dell also upgraded the EqualLogic software. Array Software 6.0 now supports synchronous replication, snapshot borrowing that allows older snapshots to be kept in a reserve longer and volume unmap that allows systems to reclaim space on thin-provisioned volumes. The EqualLogic SAN Headquarters 2.5 is enhanced with a Dell integrated support feature that collects diagnostic data from Dell devices on customers’ sites that's sent to a Dell data center for customer support. The EqualLogic Host Integration Tools for Microsoft 4.5 now has an Auto-Snapshot Manager (ASM) feature for Microsoft SharePoint for application-consistent snapshots. The software already supports Microsoft Exchange, SQL Server, Hyper-V, VMware and Linux.

“Microsoft Exchange, SQL Server and SharePoint are the most popular applications used with EqualLogic,” Dell's Vigil said.

Compellent gets clustered NAS capabilities

Compellent’s new network-attached storage (NAS) technology is available with the new FS8600 appliance that works with the Compellent SC8000 SAN. The FS8600 appliance is similar to the FS7500 Dell brought out last year for EqualLogic and PowerVault storage. As with EqualLogic, the clustered NAS technology for Compellent comes from Dell’s 2010 Exanet acquisition. The new SC8000 array is based on the 64-bit Compellent Storage Center 6.0 operating system.

Dell is targeting its new vStart 1000 with Compellent storage at virtualization and cloud environments. It's also the first vStart model to use Force10 Ethernet switches, and supports 1,000 virtual machines. Dell’s current vStart 50, vStart 100 and vStart 200 use EqualLogic storage and PowerConnect switches.

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