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Compellent moves to 6Gbit/s SAS interfaces

Refreshes controller hard and software

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Compellent is going to give its storage array controllers more power, update its software and move to faster SAS drives.

The company has been giving partners a glimpse of its roadmap at the annual C-Drive event in Minneapolis.

The main events include a move to 6Gbit/s SAS interfaces and a controller hardware and software refresh. The current controller generation is the SC030, a dual-core, 1333 MHz Intel-driven box with 3.5GB of cache and 18 Fibre Channel or 8 iSCSI ports.

In the second half of the year we'll see an SC040 model. It will likely be a quad-core product with a huge boost in CPU cycles available to the software. We suppose that such a boost will be needed to increase Compellent's scalability, both scale-up and scale-out (clustering), and add features like deduplication.

The controllers run Storage Center 5.2 software. This will be revved to version 5.3, but we don't know what its additional features will be.

The range of back-end drive enclosure will be extended with a 24-drive SAS 2.5-inch drive product. With this enclosure a Storage Center will be able to have up to 768 such drives with a 6Gbit/s enclosure interface speed. That's 6Gbit/s throughput per lane, and four lanes can be aggregated to provide 24Gbit/s bandwidth per external port. For comparison, there can be up to 896 Fibre Channel drives or 640 SATA drives.

A 12-bay, 3.5-inch, 6Gbit/s SAS drive enclosure will also arrive by the end of 2010.

Compellent will introduce 2TB SAS disk drives by the end of the quarter. These will probably come from Seagate, a C-Drive sponsor, and Storage Center 5.3 will support them.

The company, like Seagate, thinks that 3.5-inch hard drives will be overtaken in unit shipment terms this year by 2.5-inch drives, with more than twice as many 2.5-inch drives shipped in 2011 than the 3.5-inch format, which will slump to about a tenth of 2.5-inch shipments in 2012.

The future for bandwidth performance is 6Gbit/s SAS, but 3.5-inch 7200rpm drives will predominate where capacity is the main focus, for now. It also thinks that Fibre Channel host port demand, currently 69 per cent of total port shipments, will decline this year with SAS port demand ramping up from its seven per cent of ports shipped level.

Storage Center block-access host interfaces are currently Fibre Channel and iSCSI. The 4Gbit/s Fibre Channel host bus adapters (HBA) from available from Emulex and QLogic will have 8Gbit/s ones added from Emulex. Cisco's Nexus switch will be adopted in the second half too.

Compellent will add 6Gbit/s HBA and I/O cards in the second half of the year, along with Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE). The company will also update its Windows Storage Server (WSS) network-attached storage (NAS) head product to a third-generation product later this year. That product line is focused on pure CIFS environments, whereas the very recently-introduced zNAS product is for NFS, mixed NFS and CIFS, and Unix environments. It does not replace the WSS NAS box.

A Compellent venture capital investor, with two million-plus shares held since the IPO, is confident about Compellent's prospects, notwithstanding the earnings drop of the last couple of quarters and the revenue fall in the latest quarter. He's hoping the investment glory days will return. ®

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