EMC readying flexible storage arrays

EMC Corp. is expected to bolster its mid-range arrays next week with three new network-attached storage systems that sources say not only will give users more flexible and scalable configuration options, but also let them re-use existing arrays.

While EMC declined to comment, the announcement is expected to include:

* The NetWin 200, a NAS server that combines Microsoft Corp.’s Windows Storage Server 2003 technology with EMC Clariion CX200 storage.

* A gateway product, the NS600G, that lets users connect Fibre Channel Clariion arrays to Gigabit Ethernet networks.

* A new, less-powerful and less-expensive Celerra NAS system.

Kent Smith, principal consultant for IPSO, a business systems integrator that installs and configures EMC boxes, says the new arrays allow considerably more flexibility.

“Every customer I am working with is continually trying to figure out how to take what they’ve got and continue to use it while still bolting on new functionality,” Smith says. “I have one client that doesn’t have NAS, but does have a few Symmetrix boxes that are all connected directly (to servers). With these new products, they can take their Symmetrix boxes, add disks and connect them to the network with an (NS600G). They can do it without buying a lot of other stuff and improve the value of the existing equipment.”

The NetWin 200 will mark EMC’s entry into the low-end Windows Storage Server 2003 market. The NetWin 200, which is based on EMC’s CX200 disk processor enclosure and a dual Intel Corp. Pentium 4 processor-based server attached to as many as 30 146GB disks, is aimed at customers who will implement it in a core-to-edge NAS/storage-area network configuration.

In this configuration, customers will install smaller Windows Storage Server appliances at the edge of the network that feed into the NetWin 200. In turn, NetWins will connect to Celerra NS600 arrays and then into Celerra Clustered Network Server boxes, which are connected to EMC Symmetrix storage arrays in the data center.

In addition to having as much as 4 terabytes of usable capacity, the NetWin 200 will have redundant cooling fans and data paths, and RAID 5 support, as well as EMC’s PowerPath option, which switches data to an alternate path when the primary path fails.

The NetWin 200 will be managed by new software, the NaviSphere Agent for Windows Storage Server, which lets users create, delete and expand volumes, as well as monitoring and alerting for array faults or other problems. Like EMC’s other NAS products, the NetWin 200 also can be managed from a Web interface or the Microsoft Management Console. It will work with EMC’s OnCourse software for the automatic replication and distribution of files across the network. The front-end server runs Windows Storage Server 2003; the CX200 array runs EMC’s Flare operating system.

As for the EMC Celerra NS600G SAN/NAS gateway, sources say it is based on EMC’s Celerra NS600 NAS system. Unlike the NS600 though, the NS600G enables an Ethernet connection to separate Fibre Channel storage. The NS600G consists of a decoupled NS600 in which the NAS head can connect to several types of back-end Fibre Channel storage. It will support attachment to Clariion CX400 and CX600 arrays first, followed by connection to EMC Symmetrix arrays. Sources also say EMC is considering allowing the NS600G to work with other vendors’ storage arrays.

The new Celerra NS600 NAS system has one controller instead of two and reportedly will be less expensive, although EMC has not announced prices or said when it will be available.

The NetWin 200, which is available now, starts at US$50,000 for a 500GB configuration. Pricing and availability could not be learned for the NS600G.