EMC pushes Clariion upmarket

Prepping cheaper lines

ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

EMC Corp has begun the promised promotion of its midrange Clariion storage array, by launching a high-end version of the device that fills in where the company's Symmetrix flagship array cannot compete because of its cost,

Tim Stammers writes

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Joe Tucci, EMC CEO, said the new machine is also the first of what will be several product launches by the company between now and March that will reflect a new strategy at EMC. The major theme of this new strategy - already declared by the company - is to develop cheaper alternatives to EMC's current hardware. It was devised some time after EMC took a beating in last year's price war, when the company blamed its first ever loss on its failure to adapt to a change in demand to smaller systems of just 1TB to 2TB capacity - a range in which the Symmetrix was just too expensive to compete.

The new plan will see the Symmetrix range expanded downwards, while the lower-cost Clariion range is expanded upwards, creating an overlap between the two. The plan will also - as Tucci repeated and stressed yesterday - involve new low-end Clariions, which will almost certainly be made by Dell Computer Corp.

"Symmetrix will still be the fastest, most functional platform on the market, [but] we'll drive the Symmetrix clear down into the mid-tier marketplace. Also we'll continue to build very fast very functional Clariions that go way into the low-end of the top-tier, but also more importantly into the low-end where EMC has not been present before," Tucci said.

The Clariion CX600 launched this week will cost around 20% more than the previously most expensive Clariion, which was the FC4700, but will be around half the price of the Symmetrix. Until now EMC has had a policy of not revealing prices, giving the impression that "if you have to ask, you can't afford it," and so reinforcing the company's reputation for charging punishingly high prices. All that must change if the company is to compete at the low end, and so EMC is now quietly releasing some list prices.

The cheapest configuration of the CX600, fitted with just five 36GB disk drives, carries a list price of around $115,000. A CX600 fully loaded with disks to give the maximum 17.5TB capacity will cost around $800,000. The cheapest configuration of Symmetrix has a 300GB capacity, and a list price of about $190,000.

The CX600 represents the first major upgrade to the line since the 4700 was introduced in April 2001, but it is a less dramatic upgrade. The design philosophy of the CX600 appears to have been to simply be bigger and better than the 4700. Compared to the 4700 it has three times the processing power - achieved by switching from 733MHz to 2GHZ Pentium array controller processors - three and a half times the bandwidth, a cache four times larger, and twice as many external connections.

The CX600 is the first Clariion to incorporate the PowerPath technology originally developed for the Symmetrix. PowerPath reroutes data flows around failed network connections. EMC also said it is extending the distance over which the Clariion can replicate data, by backing CNT Inc's Fibre Channel-to-FCIP protocol convertor, which allows replication over low-cost long-distance IP links. This device was qualified by EMC in March this year - what's new is the offer of EMC engineering advice during its installation with a Clariion.

The 4700 spearheaded a change from Motorola to Intel processors powering the Clariion array controllers, and the introduction of controller-based data replication. The jump from Motorola was difficult to make but essential to maintain headroom in processing power, EMC has said before.

The long-awaited software which will allow the Symmetrix to replicate to the Clariion is going to stay long-awaited for a little while, apparently. An EMC spokesman said: "How we do that will become clear over the next few quarters." © ComputerWire

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