Dell and EMC ally to keep businesses online

Companies looking to put storage area networks through their paces could benefit from a new initiative in the Republic of Ireland

Dell and EMC have linked their respective datacentres in the Republic of Ireland to help companies test the resilience of business-critical storage systems -- a process termed business continuity.

The facility means that customers of Dell, EMC and their partners can test the performance of their data over a 100km distance between Dell’s Application Solution Centre in Limerick and EMC’s Solutions Operations Centre in Cork.

The fibre channel link between the two datacentres is provided by BT’s Ireland subsidiary Esat BT and Nortel Networks’ equipment. Storage systems provided under the Dell/EMC joint venture are currently installed in more than 5,400 sites, said Dell’s European director for enterprise systems Kevin Libert, and the relationship was recently extended for a further five years.

The facility is for customers who have bought and who are planning to buy these storage area networks and who want to test implementations that are mirrored remotely using Esat BT’s fibre-channel network and Nortel Networks’ OPTera Metro 5000.

Esat BT, through parent company BT, has the largest IP-enabled network in Europe, said Peter Williams, general manager for application hosting. "We have gigabit speeds across the networks, and are looking at speeds up to 10Gbps in the near future," he added.

The test facility provides a link with speeds of up to 12.5Gbps, said Libert, but few customers are expected to require such high bandwidth.

Use of the facility is free -- something that Libert introduced some time ago for all use of the Application Solution Centre. With some 95 percent of companies who use the centre going on to make purchases, said Libert, the free model is cost-effective.

But the facilities aren't open to just any company: "We look at a minimum equipment purchase vale of 300,000 euros," Libert told ZDNet UK. "We have enough demand to prioritise larger accounts, and are currently turning away 60 percent of business. We expect to double the facility next year."

Prices for the entry-level system start at about 146,000 euros per end, said Libert, and go up to around 270,000 euros per end. Explaining why anybody would want to buy only one end of such a solution, Libert said: "We’re seeing a lot of customers who have installed a LAN in one location and who are realising they have all their eggs in one basket."

Some of these, he said, are looking to upgrade and move their current servers offsite to act as the back-up SAN. "The software (EMC’s MirrorView) is fully backward compatible in the Dell/EMC product line and everything is virtual, so if disks are different sizes it doesn’t matter."

Having a slower remote SAN backing up a new production SAN can be an issue, he conceded. The solution being sold now is synchronous, which means the data is written to the backup SAN first and then written locally before a transaction is completed, "but this means if the other end is much slower then it can drag the whole speed down."

In the first quarter of 2004, Dell and EMC will launch an asynchronous solution, so that the local data is written first, then cached so the far end catches up when it can, said Libert.

Analysts said the solution is fine as far as it goes, but still lacks one important element. "What maybe is missing is someone from the applications side," said Martin Hingle," vice president of IDC's European Systems Group.'s Andy McCue contributed to this report.