Dell Offers Peek At Upcoming Compellent Storage Innovations


Dell on Tuesday offered its solution providers a look at new features in the upcoming version of its Compellent storage line.

The unveiling of some, but not all, details about the next version of the Dell Compellent storage family came at the Dell Storage Forum conference, being held this week in Orlando, Fla.

Dell in February closed its $876 million acquisition of Compellent, a leading developer of tiered storage virtualization technology.

Phil Soran, president of Dell Compellent and the former president, chairman, and CEO of Compellent, said the acquisition of Compellent, and its acquisition three years ago of iSCSI pioneer EqualLogic, have turned Dell into a company with some of the best storage intellectual property in the storage market.

"Dell is kind of the hottest storage startup in the industry," Soran said. "They've gone from a reseller to having its own IP (intellectual property)."

Soran tried to prove his point by introducing several new features the Dell Compellent Storage Center will incorporate in the next few months.

Soran divided the new feature sets up into five areas.

The first, focusing on increasing storage frequency, is building on the Data Progression automated tiering architecture for which Compellent was best known before the acquisition.

Dell plans to introduce a new 64-bit operating system that will allow larger number of files and objects to be stored, allowing the use of improved metadata characteristics to improve storage efficiency, Soran said. The company will also add deduplication and compression from its Ocarina acquisition, and improve the Storage Center's ability to tier data to the cloud. "Where best to take inactive data than the cloud?" he asked.

The second focus is on manageability and enhancements to Compellent's Enterprise Manager system resource management software, Soran said. Dell plans to make it easier for customers to use policies to better manage individual systems and to run multiple systems as a single virtual system. Management of multiple systems will be done through a single console, he said.

In the area of scalability, Dell plans to enhance its Compellent Storage Center with the ability to handle more objects, volumes, hard drives, and files, and give it improved performance, all using new industry-standard hardware, Soran. "Who has the best industry standard hardware?" he said. "Dell."

The fourth major area of focus is on offering 100 percent availability of data stored on the Compellent Storage Center, which means enhancing its auto-failover and fault tolerance capabilities as well as adding redundant enclosures, Soran said.

The fifth area is enhancements to the Co-Pilot technical service program Dell got with the Compellent acquisition. Soran, who got a long round of applause and cheering from the audience when he mentioned Co-Pilot, was short on details about the enhancements other than to say its software and processes for offering proactive technical support will be improved to help maintain its industry-leading position.

Soran said that large vendors are unable to provide the kind of innovation that Compellent and EqualLogic did before and after being acquired by Dell, and that Dell now has a base on which to continue to be an innovative storage vendor.

He also said that Compellent innovation was done in a completely different environment from Northern California, where much of the IT industry's innovation is centered.

"In Silicon Valley, folks start their businesses in their garage," he said. "In Minnesota, we start businesses in a basement. It's too cold to start in a garage. You could die."

Next: Partners Get The Innovation Message

Solution providers praised the planned enhancements to the Dell Compellent Storage Center, especially the adoption of a 64-bit operating system.

Bill Parker, senior systems engineer at Davenport Group, a St. Paul, Minn.-based solution provider and long-time Compellent partner, called the coming 64-bit operating system fantastic because it will allow the provisioning of much more storage capacity.

"We're now at the limit of what we can do," Parker said. "We already have customers ask what can be done to expand beyond the 32-bit operating system."

The Compellent Storage Center already had very successful automated storage tiering capabilities, said Bernard Westwood, CFO of Syscom, an Atlanta-based solution provider and Dell partner.

"A 64-bit operating system should really help improve tiering performance," Westwood said.

Patrick Mulvee, vice president of sales and marketing at Sidepath, an Irvine, Calif.-based solution provider and Dell partner, said that in addition to the improvements which will stem from the 64-bit operating system, he is looking forward to seeing Dell's Ocarina deduplication and compression technology integrated into the Compellent Storage Center.

"Compellent's message has always been, do more with less, thanks to its storage provisioning capability," Mulvee said. "That's a huge value. Compellent will be able to continue that value when we say to our customers we can now dedupe primary storage. That's a real home run."

Sonia St. Charles, Davenport Group CEO, said that Compellent's acquisition by Dell has only helped speed up innovation of the Storage Center.

"All the things on the roadmap will get even better because of the resources Dell is putting behind Compellent," St. Charles said.