EMC makes a Matrix

New York – High-end storage systems aren’t usually associated with anything as exciting as the Keanu Reeves movie The Matrix, but EMC Corp. has attempted to make the link.

The Hopkinton, Mass.-based company has incorporated the movie moniker into the title of its new storage architecture – Symmetrix Direct Matrix architecture – and applied the system to its recently released line of Symmetrix boxes. The unveiling took place last month in the Big Apple.

According to EMC Executive Vice-President of Storage Platform Operations David Donatelli, the new architecture is “absolutely alone” in its ability to deliver on key elements such as fault tolerance, functionality and performance.

In describing the Matrix architecture, EMC officials said that it goes beyond traditional switch- and bus-based architecture by utilizing an interconnecting system, or matrix, that maximizes the number of routes open to data as it attempts to move throughout a storage infrastructure. This matrix can scale up to 128 point-to-point connections throughout a storage array, thus providing direct links from each of the front-end channel directors to every region of a system’s cache memory, EMC said.

Another feature helping in the effort to keep data moving quickly is conveniently associated with another Keanu Reeves flick, Speed. Each dedicated connection can move traffic at rates of up to 500MBps. At maximum efficiency, EMC said this results in a total data path bandwidth of 64GB/sec.

As for the boxes that will sport the architecture, EMC released three new models of the Symmetrix DMX line: the DMX800, which scales from eight to 16 front-end ports, from 1.2 to 17.5TB of raw capacity (one to 15.3 usable) and from four to 32GB of global cache for open systems environments; the DMX1000, which scales from eight to 48 front-end ports, from 3.5 to 21TB of raw capacity (three to 18.5 usable) and from four to 64GB of global cache for mainframe and open systems setups; and the top-of-the-line DMX2000 model, which scales up to 96 front-end ports, from seven to 42TB of raw capacity (6.1 to 37 usable) and from eight to 128GB of global cache for mainframe and open systems environments.

The developments announced by EMC were encouraging to Peter Skwara, director of technology services for International Financial Data Services (Canada) in Toronto. His company stores the records of mutual fund members of 30 fund companies, and has utilized EMC storage products for the past seven years. For Skwara, one primary need stands out when it comes to storage architecture: an ability to keep up with skyrocketing capacity requirements.

“Overall, we need about 17TB of raw storage. That figure is growing 30 per cent a year,” he said. “That (17TB figure) is going to double or triple at some point, probably in the next five years or so.”

Another key requirement for Skwara’s firm is uptime.

“If there’s a problem (with our storage system), it affects 30 different companies in the industry – and it’s really loud.”

Skwara said that for him, EMC’s storage offerings have traditionally beaten IBM’s Shark systems on reliability and utilities. That doesn’t mean, however, that EMC has a lock on his shop: International Financial Data Services is constantly reevaluating its technologies.

“For me, having something on the floor for three years is more than enough,” he said. “It’s time to look for better things because they do evolve so quickly.”

The Symmetrix systems are available now and range in price from US$409,000 to US$2.5 million, depending on configuration.