Dell Adds NAS To EqualLogic, Fibre Channel To PowerVault

Dell on Tuesday enhanced its storage line with the addition of scalable NAS technology for its EqualLogic product family as well as new Fibre Channel additions to its Compellent and PowerVault families.

Dell unveiled the storage enhancements at its Dell Storage Forum conference, being held this week in Orlando, Fla.

The enhancements come at a time when Dell is building a strong presence in the storage market based on its own intellectual property, particularly from a couple of recent strategic acquisition, even as its previous reseller arrangement with EMC quickly fades away.

Dell's own storage intellectual property acquisition began in 2007, when the company unveiled a $1.4 billion bid for EqualLogic, a pioneer in the development of iSCSI storage. In February 2011, Dell closed its $876 million acquisition of Compellent, a leading developer of tiered storage virtualization technology.

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Dell also made two smaller acquisitions in 2010, including Exanet, a developer of clustered NAS technology which allows NAS to scale as more appliances are added, and Ocarina Networks, a developer of content-aware deduplication technology.

Dell on Tuesday introduced the FS7500, a new appliance which utilizes the company's Exanet technology to add saleable NAS capabilities to Dell's EqualLogic line of SAN appliances, said Brett Roscoe, executive director of data management solutions for Dell's PowerVault product line.

The FS7500 adds CIFS and NFS file-based technology to customers' EqualLogic infrastructure as quickly as it can be connected, Roscoe said. It allows customers to continue running the full gamut of EqualLogic tools, including load balancing and thin provisioning, and thus gives Dell its first unified storage system, he said.

The FS7500 has no integrated storage capacity. Instead, it turns part of the capacity on customers' EqualLogic iSCSI SAN arrays into storage which can be use as a NAS. It is sold either as one or two two-node clusters, and allows a single FS7500 file share to scale to up to 510 TBs of raw capacity, Roscoe said.

Dell's addition of NAS capabilities to its EqualLogic line is a big deal in terms of helping its channel partners better compete with NetApp, said Chris Pace, CEO of Centre Technologies, a Houston solution provider and Dell storage partner.

NetApp has mastered NAS technology, and has also driven into the SAN market as well, making it a formidable competitor for Dell's storage business, Pace said.

"This gives us another tool to compete in the NAS market," he said. "Right now, all we have is a Compellent Windows Storage Service offering. Customers ask us about unified storage all the time. I don't think we've ever had an offering we could provide."

Early customer evaluations of the FS7500 began in May, and the product is expected to ship starting in the third quarter, Roscoe said.

Dell on Tuesday also upgraded its EqualLogic firmware to include integration of and support for the FS7500, said Travis Vigil, executive director of data management solutions for the EqualLogic line.

The firmware was also updated with enhanced load balancing capability beyond its traditional support across capacity and RAID, Vigil said. "Now it will look at latency and will move loads as needed to give performance back," he said.

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Also new is the industry's first support of Data Center Bridging for iSCSI, Vigil said.

With support for Data Center Bridging, which is an extension to the Ethernet protocol which increases reliability as bandwidth moves towards 10-Gbps, the result is improved quality of service and even traffic flow in a converged SAN-LAN networking fabric, he said.

The new firmware also supports thin provisioning in VMware virtualized environments, Vigil said.

Also new from Dell is the addition of 8-Gbps Fibre Channel support for Dell's PowerVault storage arrays.