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Dell EMC Unity XT expands midrange storage overlap

Even as it plans to winnow away overlapping midrange SANs, Dell EMC adds four capacity models to its Unity XT series designed to broaden support for VMware Cloud.

LAS VEGAS -- Rather than streamline its midrange storage system platforms, Dell EMC has added another.

At Dell Technologies World today, the storage vendor expanded the Dell EMC Unity family of hybrid SAN arrays with several modes to deploy it as a cloud array.

The new Dell EMC Unity XT is a 2U system that can be all-flash or hybrid storage for transactional block and file storage. Unity storage supports VMware Virtual Volumes to integrate with virtual machines.

Four Unity XT versions are planned: the 380 and 380F, 480 and 480F, 680 and 680F, and 880 and 880F series. The "F" designation denotes all-flash models. The models differ in terms of the maximum number of drives per Unity system. On the low end, Unity XT380 systems scale to 500 drives, compared with 1,500 drives for high-end XT880 arrays.

Ready for NVMe software upgrade

The XT systems use the latest Intel Skylake processors and more memory than previous Dell EMC Unity systems. They also support NVMe SSDs.

The difference from the XT's predecessor is in heightened performance, said Caitlin Gordon, a Dell EMC senior vice president of storage marketing. Gordon said the latest Intel Skylake processors and increased memory combine to boost data access for reads and writes.

"Even though a lot of our customers don't need the level of NVMe latency at this point, this gives them the feeling of investment protection" for their storage, Gordon said.

Dell EMC promises a 3-1 ratio for data reduction on Unity XT as part of its Future-Proof Storage Loyalty Program.

EMC launched the original Unity SAN before the Dell merger, and it has emerged as Dell EMC's midrange flagship hybrid array. The vendor claims an installed base of 14,000 customers, with more than 40,000 Unity systems and 4 PB of capacity globally. Dell EMC also sells SC Series midrange SANs, formerly branded as Dell Compellent. Dell EMC also has the VNX midrange platform, an all-flash XtremIO family and the PowerVault entry-level SAN that was added in 2018.

Speculation about product overlap has lingered since Dell and EMC merged in 2016. Jeff Clarke, head of Dell EMC's infrastructure solutions group, has told investors that Dell plans to streamline the midrange systems in 2019.

Scott Sinclair, storage analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group in Milford, Mass., said the Dell EMC Unity line is likely to emerge as the only Dell EMC midrange platform.

"It makes sense for Dell EMC to have only one midrange system and use all its R&D to build in new features and capabilities," Sinclair said.

Unity as hardware, cloud and VSA

Dell EMC this week expanded customer options to run Unity and its PowerMax high-end SAN storage for VMware Cloud. The Unity XT is among several of the vendor's arrays available through the new Dell EMC Cloud Storage Services, which connects through a managed service provider directly to a public cloud. The entire Dell EMC Unity family, PowerMax high-end SAN and Isilon NAS arrays are available through Cloud Storage Services.

Cloud Storage Services will become generally available in May. The Unity XT arrays are expected to be generally available in July.

Dell EMC also sells Unity as a virtual storage appliance and lets customers download a community edition of the Unity OS that supports 4 TB of storage.

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