Dell makes big bet on 10GbE

Dell Corp. bolstered its IT infrastructure portfolio on Thursday with the release of a new line of 10 Gigabit Ethernet-enabled switches, interconnects and storage arrays.

The company also unveiled software that virtualizes the storage and network fabrics in the data centre, which will let IT managers manage a server’s interactions to this hardware without physical intervention.

Dell’s storage and networking additions include the EqualLogic PS6010 and PS6510 iSCSI storage arrays, PowerConnect 8024F and B-Series switches, plus 10 GbE CNAs for PowerEdge servers.

All of these products will be available by mid-January, with some already available now.

Travis Vigil, a senior product marketing manager for Dell’s storage array products, said 10GbE is an important technology for data centres administrators looking for performance and scalability. The 10GbE standard is the fastest available for hard-wired local area networks, operating at 10 gigabits per second.

On the performance side, the 10GbE arrays will give customers up to 10 times more sequential bandwidth per array with the PS6510S model coming shipping with a 100GB Solid State Disk option. The arrays can scale up to 768TB per group and will deliver a 50 per cent decrease in cabling.

Last year, Dell’s US 1.4 billion purchase of iSCSI SAN provider EqualLogic was still fairly unclear due to the rising popularity of Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE). During an October 2008 media conference, Dell storage executives acknowledged the shift toward convergence of Ethernet and Fibre Channel (FC) technology and that the company would have to address the trend.

“There is going to be a lot of noise about what is the right protocol choice for the future and which ones are going to last,” Eric Endebrock, Dell’s enterprise storage product manager, told reporters at the time. “Dell’s a big believer in unifying the fabric and when we look at that we believe the fabric is going to be Ethernet in the long term. We’re not looking to forklift our customers from the environments that they have today.”

Endebrock added that linking EqualLogic to iSCSI is probably not the best way to think about its investment in the storage provider, but he stopped short of specifying how it would use the brand to tackle FCoE.

A year later, this market noise has persuaded Dell to more directly address FCoE, even though the technology is still not using the EqualLogic branding.

“We view FCoE as a strong technology for customers that have already deployed a fibre channel SAN and are looking to unify their storage area networks under Ethernet,” Vigil said. “We agree with analysts and other vendors that broad FCoE adoption is likely to begin in late 2010-2012 and we’re prepared to help our fibre channel install base make the migration to a unified fabric under iSCSI, 10GbE and FCoE.” 

“The availability of Qlogic CNAs and Dell’s PowerConnect B Series switches are a clear indication of our commitment to this technology for install-based fibre channel,” he added.

In addition to these storage and networking, Dell also announced new software on the server side called Infrastructure Manager. This will allow data centre administrators to provision the server stack, networking connectivity, and storage infrastructure without touching any physical equipment.

“Basically this virtualizes the networking infrastructure and allows data centres to move workloads from virtual to physical without having to go in and manually configure any of the infrastructure,” he said.

Along with this tool, the company launched a server lifecycle controller and expects to release a set of pre-tested and validated business configurations within the next few months.

Charles King, principal analyst with Haywood, Calif.-based Pund-IT Research Inc., said that despite Dell’s late entrance to the networking business, the storage and networking product announcements suggest the company is making a big bet on 10 GbE and its importance to enterprise IT.

“At one level, this is simply a series of new data centre products — leaning heavily toward its own and Brocade’s network switches and infrastructure management software and solutions,” he said. “But I think (it’s) also emblematic of a shift, at Dell and among other vendors, which recognizes the growing importance of the role networking plays in the enterprise and emerging service offerings including cloud.”

The Infrastructure Manager release is also a strong one for the company, King said, as it will basically allow Dell to deliver an entire data-centre-ready stack.

Overall, he added, the new products and services will add to Dell’s IT infrastructure portfolio and should help Dell customers get on-board with 10GbE.

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