Dell eases data migration with Compellent update

Dell has updated its storage portfolio with its first Compellent Storage Centre release since buying the company a year ago, as well as continuing to integrate technology brought in from Force10 and Ocarina Networks
Written by Jack Clark, Contributor

Dell has put technology from its recent acquisitions to work, with the release of software and hardware aimed at easing data migration and boosting application portability.

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Dell has announced a raft of software and hardware updates and releases, including the arrival of Dell Compellent Storage Centre 6.0. Image credit: Jack Clark

The company introduced updates and releases in four areas — software, storage, networking and application-specific appliances — at the Dell Storage Forum on Wednesday. They are part of Dell's 'fluid data' effort, which aims to improve how customers automate and manage the transfer of data, and build on technology picked up in the purchases of Compellent, Force10 and Ocarina Networks.

"[This is] a lot of technology, a lot of integration bought together," Darren Thomas, general manager of Dell's storage unit, said at the event in London. "We're going to continue delivering on this fluid data promise."

The moves follow Dell's push to become more services and software-oriented, a strategy it outlined at its first major conference, Dell World, in late 2011. One key indication of this is the overhauled Dell Compellent Storage Centre 6.0, the first release since the storage array vendor was bought by Dell in February.

New features in Storage Centre 6.0 include support for 64-bit systems, which increases addressable memory from a little under 4GB to a theoretical maximum of 16 exabytes. It also has close VMware integration via support for vSphere Storage APIs for Array Integration (VAAI), aimed at making it easier and quicker to migrate virtual machines.

"We can clone a copy of a virtual machine 41-percent faster," Dell Compellent president Phil Soran said at the event.

Networking upgrade

Dell has broadened its storage hardware support for Force10 Ethernet and PowerConnect networking. It has validated Force10's S4810 10Gb and deep-buffer S60 1Gb/10Gb Ethernet switches for Dell's EqualLogic hardware, the first two switches from its acquisition of Force10 Networks to be integrated with its existing products.

An update to PowerConnect 8024 10Gb switches now allows for up to six of the switches to be chained together and run  via a single IP address, to make management easier.

Dell has also added an initial feature from new networking standard Fibre-Channel over Ethernet, which lets the PowerConnect switches run FCoE traffic through to a converged switch that can understand the protocol. This update should help businesses collapse their storage network onto a single standard — Ethernet — rather than having to run both an Ethernet and a Fibre Channel network, according to Dell.

Two product releases rounded out Dell's networking announcements: the Brocade 6510 and DCX 8510 switches for Dell's storage hardware. The new 16Gb Fibre Channel SAN products are scheduled for release in late January.

Force10 opens up a new area for Dell, as the technology has "a pedigree of working in web 2.0-type companies", Jonathan Seckler, the company's network product marketing director, told ZDNet UK.

He acknowledged that Force10 will play a major role within Dell's high-end Data Center Solutions unit, which creates hardware and software for enterprises with heavy IT needs. This fits with Dell's strategy of targeting higher-end companies and will put it into closer competition with rivals HP and IBM.

"Force10 will focus on the datacentre, and we're focusing the [Dell] PowerConnect portfolio on the campus/enterprise LAN portfolio," Seckler said.

SME back-up appliance

Another new product is the Dell DR4000 disk-to-disk back-up appliance, the fruit of its purchase in 2010 of storage optimisation specialist Ocarina Networks. The DR4000 is available in 40TB, 81TB and 135TB capacities. It has inline deduplication and compression, as well as data-protection features, and uses an all-inclusive software licensing model that guarantees customers access to further updates at no additional fee.

The key challenge most of our customers face is, 'How do I manage the explosive growth I see in the storage space?'
– Bryan Jones, Dell

The DR4000, scheduled for release in the first quarter, is targeted at small and medium-sized businesses. It is designed to function as a staging environment between a company's main IT infrastructure and its tape back-up systems, according to Mike Davis, head of marketing and strategy for Dell's NAS and file services.

"The cost and administrative hassle of restoring from tape is very high," Davis said. "This product is a very simple... type of disk-staging system — it works with Commvault and Symantec, and just plugs and plays with their software."

In the future, the DR4000 will be capable of integrating with Dell's cloud services, which the company hopes will "promote cloud adoption", Davis said.

Finally, Dell has engineered its hardware and software to work well with Microsoft SharePoint collaboration software, creating an application-specific appliance called the Dell Solution for Microsoft SharePoint Infrastructure Optimisation. It is expected to go on sale in Europe late in the first quarter, though pricing has not been disclosed.

Taken together, the product announcements reflect a shift in the datacentre: processing power is no longer the limiting factor on companies getting the most out of their IT, it is now the input/output layer.

"If you looked at the datacentre even three or four years ago, the focus was on compute," said Bryan Jones, director of Dell's global datacentre strategy and marketing. "The key challenge most of our customers face is, 'How do I manage the explosive growth I see in the storage space?'"

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