EMC upgrades garner praise on ‘green’ benefits

Greater capacity, greener results: That combination of benefits stands as the core of a battery of major product upgrades coming from EMC this week, according to industry experts.

In a Webcast Monday, the company was expected to introduce a new high-end Symmetrix DMX-4 storage system, as well as enhancements to its mid-range Clariion array, Celerra network-attached storage (NAS) box and content-addressable Centera storage system. Higher-capacity drives being added to most of its systems can be expected to consume 25 percent less power, according to EMC’s estimates. The company is also adding security and availability features.

“A lot of the new features are related to power and cooling,” says Stephanie Balouras, senior analyst with Forrester Research. “EMC is laying the foundation for a pretty strong campaign on green IT and how they can gain efficiencies in the data center.” Another analyst sees the EMC initiatives paying competitive dividends.

“EMC is refreshing, enhancing and increasing both the scale up/scale down and scale out capabilities of their systems,” says Greg Schulz, senior analyst for StorageIO. “They are going pretty comprehensive compared to some other vendors’ recent product announcements. There is more meat on the bone than other vendors who have announced upgrades recently.”

The company last introduced new Symmetrix gear 17 months ago that had 500GB drives for a storage capacity of more than a petabyte. Hitachi, by contrast, last upgraded its Universal Storage Platform in May of this year, one year after it upgraded its performance and added availability enhancements. And HP announced in June green features for its Enterprise Virtual Array such as low-cost and slower Fibre ATA drives.

Specifically, the company was to announce a new DMX-4 array that has end-to-end 4Gbps Fibre Channel connectivity. The new DMX-4 will also allow customers to intermix Fibre Channel and Serial ATA drives, and use increased-capacity 750GB drives that will lower power consumption by as much as 25 percent. Performance in the replication of data between arrays will also be increased, sources say. As expected and promised in February at the RSA Conference, EMC will also more tightly integrate security features from RSA into the DMX-4.

The EMC Clariion line of midrange storage arrays will also see performance enhancements. In addition, the Clariion drives will now support RAID 6, which is sometimes called double parity. In RAID 6, if two disk drives fail within a single RAID group, data can be rebuilt. RAID 6 support for EMC’s Symmetrix was announced earlier this year. Like the DMX-4, the Clariions will be more tightly integrated with security capabilities from RSA.

As for the Celerra NAS array, the capability to add block-level, storage-area networking support will be added without the need for a separate NAS gateway. The Celerra also will now support thin provisioning, and according to sources will be able to be set up in less than 15 minutes. In thin provisioning a single pool of storage can be virtually allocated to applications, and storage capacity can be oversubscribed to improve utilization. A new single-controller-node Celerra will be introduced — this array, the NS20, will be able to be upgraded to the present dual-controller NS40, which supports as much as 32TB of capacity, as customer needs require.

Finally, the EMC Centera will also include the use of 750GB drives and be backward-compatible with previous Centera versions. Once again, EMC will jump on the green bandwagon, with several energy-efficient features for the Centera, such as drives that consume 25 percent less power. Like the DMX-4 and new Clariions, the refreshed Centera will include security features from RSA.

With the expanded product line, EMC continues to bolster its hardware platform. The company maintained its lead in external disk systems with almost a 25 percent market share in 2006, according to Gartner. IBM followed EMC with 15.8 percent of the market. Almost half of EMC’s revenue is derived from its storage systems. In the first quarter of 2006, systems revenue represented 44 percent of total revenue, software licenses and maintenance revenue represented 40 percent, and professional services and systems revenue accounted for 16 percent of total revenue.