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Dell's storage vision: From reseller to innovator

Fluid Data goes external

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Comment Having bought storage technologies and companies to gain entry into new storage categories, Dell is now rolling out a unified storage architectural vision embracing file systems added to every storage offering, and Ocarina-deduplication everywhere. Compellent's fluid data idea is being applied across Dell's storage portfolio from entry level PowerVaults, through SME, and the enterprise out to the cloud.

Dell now has a presence in every main storage category except four:

  • PowerVault entry-level storage
  • EqualLogic iSCSI SAN for SMEs
  • Compellent FC SAN for enterprises
  • DX6000 for archival storage based on objects
  • Nascent products in scale-out NAS with the Exanet intellectual property (IP)
  • Compression and deduplication with Ocarina (which is content-aware)

The four missing areas are a disk-based data protection box to take on Data Domain, a data moving, protection and management package such as those offered by CommVault and Symantec, a cloud storage offering for service providers, and a unified management layer.

The company has had high-level marketing people doing the rounds this month talking up its new Fluid Data Architecture vision and outlining some deliverables we can expect to see later this year.

There are three main storage array product lines at present, with PowerVault, EqualLogic and Compellent. One or more new Compellent products will emerge that move the line up the enterprise storage food chain, with greater capacities and more scale. We also expect the array software to move to 64-bit code, and to have ability to have extremely fine granular control of data blocks for automatic placement across the tiers in a Compellent array.

We understand that Compellent arrays will get an iSCSI SAN capability added to their Fibre Channel SAN features, and that EqualLogic arrays will get Fibre Channel SAN capabilities added to their existing iSCSI block access. This might be native Fibre Channel or it could be Fibre Channel Lite, otherwise known as FCoE (Fibre Channel over Ethernet).

Ocarina-isation

Prior to Dell's acquisition Compellent was developing its own in-house deduplication technology. Dell aims to add Ocarina content-aware compression and deduplication across all its storage systems, via, it's suggested, an integrated front-end appliance. How that would fit with Compellent's own deduplication is not clear. There could be some unification or integration of the two deduplication offerings, a Compellent-only offering behind an Ocarina front-end or an abandonment of the Compellent dedupe technology. We just don't know.

The strategy appears to be to add Ocarina dedupe to Dell's servers too. Data would be compressed, optimised and deduplicated as it enters the Dell compute, networking and storage world and be moved around the infrastructure in deduced form to minimise network bandwidth and storage capacity take-up. This would extend out to the DX6000 archive storage product, to whatever disk-based data protection array Dell comes up with, and out to its cloud offering which it will sell to service providers. The "Ocarina-isation" of Dell's storage array products will, it's hoped, start and be completed in the second half of 2011.

We're told to expect primary storage deduplication up to 57 times more effective than NetApp's ASIS.

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