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EMC reapplies iSCSI storage warpaint

Courts SMBs with bigger array

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EMC is reinvigorating efforts to win the hearts and wallets of SMBs with a new storage area network (SAN) array.

The Clariion AX4 SAS/SATA disk array is heir to EMC's AX150 and CX300 in its low-end storage lineup. The box sports a capacity well above its predecessors and puts new emphasis on the iSCSI protocol.

Set to ship today, the AX4 will be able to scale from 3TB to 45TB using 750 GB disk drives. (The AX150 supports up to 6TB and the CX300 supports 38TB.) EMC will qualify 1TB SATA disk drives for the AX4 in March, bumping the max capacity to 60TB. Unlike the AX150 and CX300, the new system can also host both SAS and SATA drives within the same enclosure.

The AX4 is available with either 4Gbit/s iSCSI or Fibre Channel — although EMC's Mike Apigian says the company is emphasizing the latter.

"ISCSI is one of the main factors that enables SMBs to move from server-based storage to network-based," hesaid.

Pricing is the same between the two protocols. The AX4 hardware is based around the same components from the Clariion line like the AX150, but includes some additional software. AX4 comes bundled with path management, failover and remote replication software based on EMC's Site Recovery Manager and MirrorView. It also includes Navisphere Express Management software with for wizard-driven provisioning, a MetaLUN feature for expanding capacity and Virtual LUN for migrating data within the system non-disruptively.

Meanwhile, Dell is to brand the system as the AX4-5. The reseller is pitching the system for SMBs who require more capacity than offered by its low-end iSCSI MD3000i array. Dell, however, wouldn't comment on how the system fits into its new iSCSI emphasis in light of its recent acquisition of EqualLogic.

A basic configuration of the AX4 starts at $8,600 for 3TB of storage that supports up to 10 hosts. Buying the system from Dell's AX4-5 starts at about $13,000 with a 24/7 on-site support warranty. A bit pricey for a SMB.

A more advanced configuration supports up to 64 hosts (physical and virtual) — although EMC isn't talking price at this end of the scale. Optional software of interest for larger systems include centralized management of multiple AX and CX arrays, local clones for backup and recovery, and replication for MS Exchange, SQL and Oracle.

There's been a lot of interest lately by hardware vendors shooting for SMBs with iSCSI arrays. Competition in the AX4 range is fierce. To name a few: NetApp offers the StoreVault that scales to 4TB capacity starting at $3,000. HP has the StorageWorks 1200 with a max capacity of 9TBs (of SATA) starting at $8,800. Hitachi's has the SMS 100 starting at $5,000. The competition adds up to quite a bit of product overlap in the market — giving SMBs a healthy variety to choose from. ®

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