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Dell Adds Unified SAN-NAS Capability To Flagship Compellent Storage Line

A new controller and new NAS head based on Exanet technology gives Dell's flagship Compellent SAN array family the ability to also handle NAS data via a unified management console.

Dell on Tuesday significantly enhanced its flagship Dell Compellent storage family with the addition of unified SAN-NAS storage technology and a new controller based on the company's latest server technology.

The new Dell Compellent enhancements were unveiled at the Dell Storage Forum conference being held this week in Boston, Mass.

The enhancements mark the first significant upgrades to the Compellent storage family since last year's acquisition of Compellent by Dell.

[Related: Dell Targets HP, Cisco With New Blade Arrays, Converged Infrastructure ]

Dell introduced two primary additions to its Compellent storage line.

The first was the unveiling of a new version of the Compellent controller, the SC8000, which is based on the 64-bit Compellent Storage Center 6.0 operating system which Dell introduced earlier this year.

The controller is also the first in the Compellent line to be designed using Dell's twelfth-generation server technology.

The new SC8000 array includes new 2U, 6-Gbit-per-second SAS enclosures with room for up to 12 3.5-inch or 24 2.5-inch disk drives per enclosure.

The SC8000 is a unified storage systems which provides both file data (NAS) and block data (SAN) capabilities, all with a 99.999-percent availability.

The NAS capability is provided by the Dell Compellent FS8600, a high-performance, scale-out NAS module which enables SAN and NAS data to coexist within the Compellent solution. It is based on technology Dell received with its 2010 acquisition of Exanet, a developer of scale-out NAS technology.

Dell last year used the Exanet technology to add NAS capabilities to its EqualLogic SAN arrays.

The FS8600 support 8-Gbit-per-second Fibre Channel connections, and provides a choice of 1GbE or 10GbE connectivity to the network.

Dell storage solution providers who previewed advanced information about the new Compellent controller and unified storage technologies said getting a NAS head for the Compellent line is important for easing the management of customers' data.

The technology provides a single console for managing NAS and SAN data, said Thomas Flores, senior technical consultant at Centre Technologies, a Houston-based solution provider and Dell partner.

"You don't want to have to do one thing in one screen, and got to another screen to do something else," Flores said.

NEXT: Single Management Of SAN And NAS Storage Environments

The addition of NAS capabilities to the Compellent storage family is a huge opportunity for Dell's solution providers, said Paul Clifford, president of Davenport Group, a St. Paul, Minn.-based solution provider and Dell partner.

"Our friends at NetApp did great with solutions built for the NAS market," Davenport's Clifford said. "But they were selling SAN on their NAS Filers. Compellent provides true block-level management. With the new DFS (Dell File System) from Exanet, NAS is managed cleanly like everything in the Compellent interface, but the files are stored on the SAN. We will be selling that solution."

Flores said the new unified SAN-NAS capabilities will be a significant boost to the competitiveness of the Compellent platform vs. Hopkinton, Mass.-based EMC's VNX unified storage family.

"The Compellent offering allows up to eight NAS heads with clustered load balancing without the need to keep a hot spare," he said. "With VNX, you need a hot spare. Also, because of the Compellent's clustering, there is no downtime if there is a failure."

Clifford said he was expecting Dell to add these kinds of advanced capabilities to Compellent when Dell acquired that company, and he was not disappointed.

"You were putting the smart guys at Compellent with the resources of Dell," he said. "That's what I told my customers when Dell first acquired Compellent."

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