EMC's Clariion CX4 Has Everything But The Kitchen Sink

The new Clariion CX4 family, which is scheduled to replace its current CX3 family, is EMC's first midrange arrays to include thin provisioning, continuous data protection, integrated security, a flash drive option and the ability to upgrade its I/O connectivity.

Dell, EMC's biggest reseller partner, also unveiled the four arrays for its own direct and indirect sales channel under the Dell/EMC moniker.

The new CX4 looks very, very promising, said Keith Norbie, director of the storage division of Nexus Information Systems, a Plymouth, Minn.-based solution provider and EMC partner.

"In the past, the Clariion would get smacked by some feature company A added, or company B, or company C," Norbie said. "But now EMC has checked off the list of modern features. The platform is robust, and the features are up-to-date."

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To build the CX4, EMC first changed the architecture by upgrading its FLARE operating system to a 64-bit platform compared with the CX3's 32-bit platform and added either two Intel dual-core processors or two Intel quad-core processors, said Barry Ader, senior director of EMC's storage product marketing.

Also new is the ability to not only mix iSCSI and Fibre Channel connectivity on a single system, but to upgrade to new technologies such as 10-Gbps Ethernet, 8-Gbps Fibre Channel, or Fibre Channel over Ethernet, Ader said.

The CX4 is the first midrange array to have an option to use flash disk drives, which offer higher performance using less power than conventional spinning drives. EMC offered flash as an option for its DMX family of enterprise storage arrays early this year.

Another feature EMC brought from its new DMX is thin provisioning, or virtual provisioning, as the vendor calls it.

Thin provisioning allows a storage administrator to allocate more capacity to specific applications or users than is physically available under the assumption that not all those applications and users will need the entire allocated space simultaneously. This allows extra physical capacity to be installed at a later date as the total amount of space actually used approaches the current installed capacity.

Also included is continuous data protection, based on EMC's RecoverPoint application. With continuous data protection, or CDP, changes to data are backed up immediately or at certain predefined intervals to let users instantly recover a deleted, corrupted or modified file.

The CX4 allows changes to the data to be replicated at both the local level for fast restores and at the remote level for archiving simultaneously, Ader said.

In addition, EMC is integrating more security, he said. The new arrays now work directly with the enVision security appliances from EMC's RSA Security Division. The enVision appliance audits data to see who touches what and puts that information into a single view the CX4 can access. Also new is the ability to encrypt data both at rest and in motion, he said.

Norbie said EMC's refresh of the Clariion line comes just in time to arrest a slight dip in the vendor's midrange storage sales.

"We've seen Clariion numbers dip," he said. "EqualLogic, NetApp and others have picked at Clariion opportunities. But EMC wants to protect its turf and may even cannibalize its own DMX sales to do so."

For example, he cited EMC's decision to integrate RecoverPoint CDP application in the CX4. "It's big for disaster recovery," he said. "With RecoverPoint, we can use the CX4 to do disaster recovery for different vendors' storage. In the past, that was very difficult to add to the Clariion."

The new Clariion CX4 line includes the CX4-120, with up to 120 hard drives and 6 GBs of system memory; the CX4-240, with up to 240 hard drives and 8 GBs of memory; the CX4-480, with up to 480 hard drives including solid state drives, as well as 16 Gbs of memory; and the CX4-960, with up to 960 hard drives and solid state drives and 32 GBs of memory.

The arrays are already shipping, but certain features such as flash drives and virtual provisioning are not expected to be available until October. Next year, EMC plans to add power-saving features such as automatic spin-down of drives whose data is not active.

EMC has not announced an end-of-life timeline for its CX3 product line, Ader said. The CX3 family was unveiled a little more than two years ago.