Dell rolls out SAN products for NT

Dell’s PowerVault line of storage products has entered the storage area network (SAN) arena with an offering specific to Windows NT users.

Robert Mah, product manager for the PowerEdge and PowerVault product lines for Dell Canada, said the newly announced products — a switch, a bridge and management software — tie previously released storage products together into a consolidated mass storage system for NT shops.

Dell and Microsoft jointly developed the software that makes it possible for multiple PowerEdge servers running NT to share one PowerVault storage subsystem, Dell said. This OpenManage Storage Consolidation software is said to enable four PowerEdge servers to share external storage with one PowerVault 650F storage system.

John McArthur, a senior analyst with IDC in Framingham, Mass., said Dell and Microsoft plan to incorporate the software into Windows 2000.

“It’s nice to see Dell doing some development like that on their own and not just relying on their OEM partners,” McArthur said.

Heading the list of new products is the PowerVault 50F Fibre Channel switch, an eight-port switch that supports up to four PowerEdge servers in a SAN.

“The essence of SANs is to provide consolidated storage so that it is housed in one central mass storage array. Then you need the ability to provide multi-host connectivity and this is accomplished by our PowerVault 50F switch,” Dell’s Mah said.

Also announced was the PowerVault 35F Fibre Channel Multiport Bridge.

“Tape back-up units are SCSI-based. There is no such thing as a Fibre Channel tape back-up solution,” Mah explained. “So in order to take advantage of things like DLT libraries, we need a bridge interface to convert from SCSI to the Fibre Channel network. That’s why we have the 35F. You plug the 35F into the switch and it provides a pathway so you can plug in any SCSI device and have access into the Fibre Channel network.”

Dell said tests using the PowerVault 35F with the PowerVault 130T reduced 16-hour back-ups to four hours.

Mah said the PowerVault 600 series of Fibre Channel RAID storage systems is designed for maximum uptime for NT.

“It’s not what you’d call a true fault-tolerant system in the sense of 100-per-cent uptime, but it’s the next best thing in the NT space…The RAID controller and the host bus controller embedded into the system all have back-up systems so if the primary fails, it’ll automatically fail over and resume functionality,” Mah said.

IDC’s McArthur said vendors that package SAN products under one brand as Dell has done will be more appealing to customers.

“Early SAN implementations will be largely homogenous in their implementation, meaning same server supplier, same branded server storage switch supplier, and although Dell has partners for almost all of the components, it’s all Dell branded and Dell tested,” McArthur said.

For example, according to a press release from StorageTek, the Dell PowerVault-branded 130T tape library is otherwise known as the StorageTek 9730 tape library.

“Customers want interoperability, to know that it’s all been tested, and to go to one place to answer all of their questions,” McArthur said.

But McArthur said customers will eventually want to branch out beyond one vendor.

“Long-term users are going to want heterogeneous support for their SANs, so while Dell has talked about bringing that out, they don’t deliver it today. Other storage suppliers are a little further along in that, so [Dell] needs to ramp that up,” McArthur said.

In the meantime, McArthur said Dell’s strongest point in the PowerVault offering is the low price point on some of the products.

The PowerVault 50F is priced at approximately $2,000 per port, while the 35F pricing starts at $7,499.

Dell Canada in Toronto is at 1-800-289-3355 or on-line at