EMC readies new Symmetrix arrays

EMC Corp. next month is expected to usher in a new version of its high-end Symmetrix storage arrays that will sport a significantly modified architecture in a bid to improve performance and scalability.

Sources said Version 6.0 of Symmetrix is also designed to close a capacity gap between EMC’s flagship product and its Clariion midrange arrays that competitors such as Hewlett-Packard Co. and Hitachi Data Systems Corp. have been more than happy to fill.

EMC said it plans to introduce the array Feb. 3 in New York. But it wouldn’t disclose any details about the planned rollout, which will be the first upgrade to the Symmetrix hardware in two years.

The new offering will likely boost the capacity of a single Symmetrix array from 70TB to more than 100TB, industry insiders said. The sources said EMC also plans to replace its current shared bus architecture with a faster switched fabric, similar to the one Hitachi built into its Lightning 9900V array two years ago.

In addition, the new array will be able to scale downward in a more modular fashion than existing models can, according to sources at EMC.

In a September interview, EMC executives said they wanted to create a more flexible and scalable Symmetrix array. The officials also hinted at plans to add native support for Fiber Connection, IBM Corp.’s Fibre Channel-based I/O connectivity technology for mainframes, to Symmetrix.

But sources said support for the IBM technology, which is known as Ficon, likely won’t be available with the first release of Symmetrix 6.0. That will probably be added next quarter, the sources said.

EMC is looking for the Symmetrix rollout to jumpstart its sales, which have been hit hard by the tightening of corporate IT budgets. The weak demand has dragged EMC into the red, although the company this month said its fourth-quarter sales appear to have topped expectations.

“We expect the announcement to be a very important one for EMC’s legacy installed base, as well as the midrange market that might not have had an EMC product up until now,” said Tony Prigmore, an analyst at Milford, Mass.-based Enterprise Storage Group Inc.

Scalability is the second-most important factor in buying storage devices, after data availability, said Daryl Black, a storage architect at Telus Communications Inc. in Vancouver.

“Scalability is critical because as we change sizes as a corporation, every piece of hardware has to be able to grow,” said Black, who recently installed two of EMC’s current Symmetrix models as part of a server consolidation project at Telus.