EMC modifies disk array to emulate tape libraries

EMC Corp. on Monday announced a data-archiving device that offers the speed and file-level granularity of disk storage but looks like a tape library to application servers.

The Clariion Disk Library is based on the company’s Clariion disk array line and costs about 50 per cent more than high-end tape libraries with comparable storage capacities, EMC said. List prices for the device, which is being introduced at the Storage Networking World conference, range from US$109,000 for a 500GB model to US$450,000 for a 32TB configuration.

EMC is using parallel Advanced Technology Attachment disk drives to keep costs down, but it’s still targeting the new array at high-end archiving applications. “It’s a plug-and-play device for enterprise customers who want big performance and big scalability,” said Chuck Hollis, vice-president of storage platforms marketing at EMC.

Hollis added that the disk library can emulate up to 32 separate tape libraries and compress data at a 3-to-1 ratio, the first time that EMC has offered compression on a disk array. The device also comes with 2GB Fibre Channel ports, dual RAID controllers and the ability to remotely alert systems administrators if technical problems occur, according to Hollis. “It has all the things an enterprise-class disk device would have that tape libraries don’t,” he said.

David Kadow, director of systems administration and infrastructure at CDC IXIS Asset Management North America L.P. in Boston, is negotiating a purchase contract with EMC after beta-testing a Clariion Disk Library for the past two months.

Kadow said he plans to keep a tape library made by ADIC Corp. in order to ship copies of data offsite. But he added that he plans to use EMC’s new device to eliminate the four other tape libraries that the investment management firm now uses. He also expects to increase the speed of data back-ups by 10 times in some instances.

Kadow also looked at other products from ADIC, Falconstor Software Inc. and Quantum Corp. that provide virtual tape library capabilities. But he said he chose EMC’s product because of his five-year working relationship with the storage vendor.

“The trend out there is definitely more toward more rapid recovery [of archived data],” said Peter Gerr, an analyst at Enterprise Storage Group Inc. in Milford, Mass. “The thing I like about it is you can implement this without changing your current back-up software or processes. They’ve qualified it with all the major back-up software vendors.”

IT managers at two midsize companies that use Clariion boxes said they also would be interested in the disk library. But the cost of the new device gave them sticker shock.

“That’s a terrible price point for me,” said Jeff Pelot, chief technology officer at Denver Health, which operates a hospital and other medical facilities. “It’s not totally outside of the realm, but it’ll have to come down in price before I can buy it.”

Pelot said he spent US$160,000 to buy a Clariion array that’s being used to store the medical facility’s radiological images. The cost of storage “is a pretty bitter pill for our CFO to swallow,” Pelot said, although he added that a price of US$100,000 for a 10.5TB model of the disk library would be enticing.

Scott Saunders, director of MIS at Paxson Communications Corp. in West Palm Beach, Fla., is upgrading his Clariion FC4700 array and recently purchased a new Clariion CX500 model.

Saunders said the disk library would be a luxury for him now. But, he added, “if you have a need for that kind of immediate response, I could see a use. For some people, that kind of fast data restoration is absolutely necessary.”

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