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EMC preps iSCSI binge

I, I, I Clariion

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EMC looks set to roll out a new fleet if iSCSI systems, but the boxes will arrive with an unflattering sales pitch - half the performance at all of the price.

A sales document making its way around the web shows EMC prepping the Clariion AX100i and CX500i for sale in the near future. In March, it will also roll out the Clariion CX300i. The iSCSI-equipped boxes will complement existing Fibre Channel systems.

While the arrival of new iSCSI kit is a plus for customers, here's the rub:

"As iSCSI runs at 1 Gigabit Ethernet speed, EMC expects the new systems to provide approximately 50 per cent of the bandwidth performance, port for port, of the Fibre Channel versions," according to the document. But . . . "The CX300i and CX500i hardware platforms are priced the same as the CX300 and CX500 Fibre Channel versions."

Ouch.

Funny enough, EMC seemed to know this pricing would raise a question or two.

"Question: I thought iSCSI hardware was less expensive than Fibre Channel?" EMC asks itself in the sales document. "Answer: The cost structure of CLARiiON iSCSI-array hardware is similar to that of the Fibre Channel versions. Customers can realize significant savings by deploying less- expensive connectivity components in an iSCSI SAN (e.g., Ethernet switches and NIC cards)."

The AX100i will ship with two 1GHz processors, hold 12 drives and take up 3U of rack space. The CX300i will ship with two 1.6GHz Xeons, hold 60 drives and take up 4U of space. The CX500i will run on four 1.6GHz Xeons, hold 120 drives and take up 4U as well.

At present, EMC will manufacture all of the systems, but close storage partner Dell could decide to build the AX100i down the road.

EMC insists that customers cannot mix iSCSI and Fibre Channel in the same system. It's also not supporting much of the Clariion software, including MirrorView and SAN Copy, on the iSCSI boxes.

The iSCSI protocol was designed, in part, to bring better performance and tools to IP-based storage networks, making higher-end storage available to more people. So far, the technology has not taken off terribly well, but the big players are all now lining up behind it.

Network Appliance, which caught word of EMC's planned iSCSI moves, welcomed its competitor to the the party.

"It's interesting to see other vendors now starting to enter the iSCSI space. NetApp has a history of firsts such as NAS and unified storage and in 2002 was the first major storage systems vendor to offer iSCSI protocol support. It appears that where NetApp goes, others follow!" ®

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