Compellent Makes Virtual Storage More Flexible, Automated

Compellent's new Storage Center 5 comes with the same hardware and software "persistence" the company has offered from day one, said Bob Fine, director of product marketing for the Eden Prairie, Minn.-based storage vendor.

"When we come out with new features, customers can add them to their existing products," Fine said. "When companies like EMC come out with a new architecture, they require, or 'encourage,' customers to adopt new platforms. In this case, customers not only need new hardware, but because software licenses are tied to the controller, if they need a new controller, they need to repurchase their software licenses."

New with Storage Center 5 is portable volumes, which allow customers who are replicating data for the first time to copy that data from a primary site to portable 2-TB USB hard drives, ship the drives to a remote data center, and copy to the secondary storage, cutting the time required to seed the replication process from weeks to a couple days, Fine said.

Compellent's software automates the process, including properly formatting the data if the hard drives are out of order. It also encrypts the data to protect it in transit.

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The portable volumes feature enables easy set up and delivery of disaster recovery services, said Patrick Mulvee, vice president of sales and marketing at Sidepath, an Irvine, Calif.-based solution provider and Compellent partner.

"Currently, we need to send a whole system over to seed the replication," Mulvee said. "Now it's much easier."

Also new is the ability to integrate both high-speed 15,000-rpm SAS drives and high-capacity 7,200-rpm SAS drives in a single disk enclosure, giving customers two physical tiers of storage in a single enclosure.

The ability to migrate data from expensive, high-speed SAS drives to cheaper SAS drives in a single enclosure is very attractive, especially to small business customers, said Scott Winslow, president of Winslow Technology Group, a Boston-based solution provider and Compellent partner.

"With this, for small customers, we can do data migration with one tray in 5U of space, or 8U with a dual controller," Winslow said. "That's pretty sexy."

Compellent also introduced the ability to move data from RAID 10 protection to RAID 6 protection.

With RAID 6, data is protected even if two hard drives fail at the same time. However, Fine said, writing to RAID 6 is slow. So with Storage Center 5, customers can write their data initially to RAID 10, and then that data is automatically migrated to RAID 6 without disrupting operations. "No one else can do this," Fine said.

That may be the biggest new feature of all, Mulvee said, as it enables fast data writes and automatic migration to RAID 6.

"It's Nirvana, once customers understand it," he said. ""They're so used to traditional RAID groups."

Another new feature is virtual ports. With Storage Center 5, the storage ports are all virtualized, and can be shared as needed, Fine said. For instance, if a customer is currently using four 1-Gb-per-second Fibre Channel ports, with Storage Center 5 their data traffic can be handled by a single 4-Gbps port.

Virtual ports gives Compellent end-to-end virtualization, making it's products the most flexible in the market, Mulvee said. "Compellent, with its software, is helping customers do more with less hardware," he said.

Also new is server mapping, which automates the deployment of virtual servers and clusters by enabling customers to configure and deploy identical thin-provisioned storage volumes to multiple physical and virtual servers.

Compellent's ability to allow existing installations, no matter how old, to be updated to the newest version of hardware and software is an important differentiator for the company, Winslow said.

"As a reseller, I told my guys, you can go back to all your existing customers, say, 'here's what's new,' and see what's applicable to them," he said. "We have customers who started with us six years ago who are still upgrading their original system."