Dell unveils new Fluid Data storage products

Dell (Nasdaq: DELL)is bulking out its storage portfolio under the Fluid Data architecture umbrella, with the announcement of four new products leveraging its acquisitions of Ocarina, Compellent

and EqualLogic.

Fluid data is Dell’s concept of having data stored, managed, protected and accessible across its four storage arrays – Compellent, EqualLogic, PowerVault and DX6000. The idea is to enable customers to manage more information, more effectively. The announcements include the launch of Dell’s first deduplication backup appliance integrating intellectual property from its acquisition of Ocarina Networks. According to Dell, the DR4000, aimed at SMBs and remote offices of large enterprises, can decrease disk capacity requirements up to 15 times, and reduce backup storage costs to as little as $0.25 per GB. The DR4000 is available in 40TB, 81TB or 135TB versions. It features inline deduplication and compression, deduplicated replication, advanced data protection, and non-disruptive deployment. It also has an all-inclusive software licensing model, meaning that customers can leverage future product capabilities without paying additional licensing fees. “Ocarina has this content-aware compression. Content-aware means we don’t use a single compression algorithm like everybody else does. Every one of our algorithms is custom written, and the reason is they compress better,” said Darren Thomas, vice president and general manager for Dell Enterprise Storage. “If we know exactly what kind of data we’re looking at, we can tweak the algorithms to be more effective.”

Dell also announced Dell Compellent Storage Center 6.0 – the first release of a major rewrite of the Compellent code since its acquisition last year. The software includes new 64-bit support that doubles memory size. It offers tiering, thin provisioning and replication features. Dell claims the modular design of the Dell Compellent SAN enables data centres to improve cost savings, because they can implement future product releases without requiring a rip-and-replace process.

Storage Center 6.0 also offers increased VMware and VAAI support. Compellent’s Storage Center already supports block zeroing, but the new vSphere storage APIs for array integration make deployment of virtual machines up to 40 per cent faster, according to Dell.

“One of the things we’ve done with Dell is increase the level of integration between our software solutions and their management controls,” said Fredrik Sjostedt, VMware’s director of product and solutions marketing for EMEA. “Essentially what that means from the customer’s perspective is much better performance because we can speed up the deduplication process, we can improve the replication from site to site, so it’s really leveraging the capabilities in the hardware.”

A Replication Adapter is available for download with support for new Site Recovery Manager 5 features, such as automated failback from a disaster and new work flows for planned migration and downtime. There is also a vSphere 5 Client plug-in and integration between Compellent’s Enterprise Manager console and vSphere.

Dell’s third announcement was around a new solution for Microsoft SharePoint infrastructure optimisation. The solution consists of Dell’s DX Object Storage platform, Dell Microsoft SharePoint assessment, design, and deployment services and AvePoint DocAve software.

According to Dell, the solution addresses three sets of customer challenges. It enables proactive capacity planning and management, to drive better storage increased application performance, it ensures consistent backups of the entire SharePoint infrastructure, and it provides flexible and scalable data governance through automated archiving.

Finally, Dell announced improved interoperability with Dell Force10 and Dell PowerConnect Ethernet solutions and Brocade 16Gb Fibre Channel switches.

Dell explained that, by combining Dell’s Fluid Data architecture with Brocade’s 16Gb Fibre Channel infrastructure, Dell Compellent customers can create more flexible, reliable SAN environments to support applications in virtualised, and cloud-optimised environments.

“Dell is one of the unique companies to offer an end-to-end data centre solution that can help customers transform IT from a rigid cost centre to a flexible productivity centre,” said Scott Winslow, CEO of Winslow Technology Group, a Dell Premier PartnerDirect channel partner. “These new Dell storage solutions offer an open, flexible platform that provides customers with a foundation for painless future growth and complements Dell’s expanding server, networking and software portfolio.”

While customers seem to like Dell’s Fluid Data solution, a report from Forrester Research in November 2011 said that companies may want to skip using a tiered storage architecture and move directly to an all-solid-state-drive (SSD) architecture. The analyst said that deduplication can reduce capacity requirements, making flash a cost-effective and better-performing alternative.

Although Dell Compellent’s Fluid Data storage offering and EMC’s Fully Automated Storage Tiering software offer automated tiering, retrofitting existing systems that weren’t designed for sub-volume data movement “is a significant challenge,” Forrester said.

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