New Dell Software Brings PS, SC Storage Management Together, Cuts Flash Cost To Under 45 Cents/GB

Dell on Thursday unveiled a new storage operating system the company said helps unify its former EqualLogic and Compellent lines and paves the way for a more cloud-like way to manage storage.

The new Dell Storage Center Operating System 7, or SCOS 7, addresses a number of customer requirements as they look for better ways to manage their growing storage environments, said Travis Vigil, executive director of storage marketing for the Round Rock, Texas-based vendor.

"We're adding flexibility, decreasing the total cost of ownership, and ensuring investment protections," Vigil told CRN. "This all comes from an operating system with the ability to move volumes across our SC and PS lines, and to migrate live volumes as needed."

[Related: Q&A: EMC's Jeremy Burton On Dell's EMC Buy, VCE, Cisco And NetApp]

Sponsored post

Dell's "SC" line is the current name for the storage technology it got with its acquisition of Compellent, while "PS" refers to the technology Dell got with its acquisition of EqualLogic.

The move is a big one for a vendor that is looking at how to best exploit its storage software technology, said Michael Tanenhaus, principal at Mavenspire, an Annapolis, Md.-based solution provider and longtime Dell partner.

"SCOS 7 comes with a long list of features covering a long list of data center issues," Tanenhaus told CRN. "It's pretty exciting. It's also a software upgrade, not a hardware upgrade. That's pretty huge for Dell. It shows Dell is getting ready for software-defined storage."

New with SCOS 7 is improved deduplication and block-level compression at the sub-LUN level that provide capacity reduction of up to 10:1, with 3:1 to 4:1 typical, Vigil said. The technology works on standard and encrypted volumes.

"As Dell is one of the only companies to allow tiering of both hard disk and SSD storage, we're now providing flash storage capacity for under 45 cents per gigabyte, and under 10 cents per gigabyte for hybrid capacity," he said.

Getting the cost of storage down in mixed disk and flash environments has been the holy grail of storage, Tanenhaus said.

"Dell, with its new compression and dedupe technology, claims it is working so well that customers will move mission-critical applications to flash environments," he said. "Under 45 cents per gigabyte is a magic number. I actually think Dell is being conservative on that number, and doesn't want to face questions by stating a more realistic and aggressive number."

Also new with SCOS 7 is Live Migrate. Dell previously provided a feature called Live Volume, which allowed a physical or virtual server to share a storage volume across two Compellent SANs, Vigil said.

"Live Migrate moves storage at the data center level to create a multi-array federation," he said. "It lets volumes move from array to array without ever touching a server."

With Live Migrate, Dell also introduced Volume Advisor, a tool for monitoring migrations and making suggestions about what migrations can accomplish, if used, he said.

SCOS 7 also introduced quality of service capabilities based on required IOPS and latencies, Vigil said. It allows customers to set their required priorities on a per-volume basis, and provides alerts and tracks changes related to quality of service over time, he said.

Dell has also implemented VMware Virtual Volumes, or VVOLS, with SCOS 7 for its SC array series, which, along with quality of service and other features, provides granular control of performance, Vigil said.

"This allows storage administrators to specify a menu of capabilities like quality of service, snapshots, dedupe, compression, and so on so that virtual machine administrators can easily implement them," he said.

Along with SCOS 7, Dell introduced its Dell Storage Manager, which allows both PS and SC environments to be managed via a single pane of glass, Vigil said.

"There are over 75,000 customers of our PS series," he said. "Dell Storage Manager gives them a way to move to the SC series at their own pace. We will sell and support our PS series for as long as customers want."

However, Vigil said, that should not be interpreted as meaning that Dell plans to end of life its PS series any time soon. "We're keeping current with our operating series and drive support," he said.

Vigil declined to discuss how Dell Storage Manager might work after Dell finishes its acquisition of EMC. "We're separate companies today," he said. "As we close the acquisition, we'll give updates at that time."

The changes Dell made with SCOS 7 and Dell Storage Manager are very significant, and stem from announcements a couple years ago that Dell plans to start integrating its PS and SC families in 2016, with a single architecture to be unveiled by 2018, Tanenhaus said.

"Now we're in 2016, and Dell is introducing SCOS 7," he said. "This is the delivery on a promise Dell has made for quite a while."

Dell's new quality of service promise will help customers avoid the issue of "noisy neighbors," Tanenhaus said. Noisy neighbors refers to the impact that one part of an IT environment, for instance one tenant in a multitenant environment or a single drive in an array, might have on adjacent elements.

Tanenhaus also said that Dell's new Live Migrate feature goes beyond traditional disaster recovery capabilities to provide cloud-like movement of workloads, while the implementation of VVOLS provides Dell storage hooks to individual workloads.

Tanenhaus also said Dell Storage Manager's provision for bi-directional replication between PS and SC storage arrays eliminates removes one of the potential problems that lead to obsolescence of older storage systems.

"Customers can move data wherever they want to protect their storage investments," he said. "Also, it makes sure customers have the right tool for the job. For instance, there are some environments where iSCSI storage like on the PS arrays is awesome. Some customers have islands of iSCSI storage that they can now get off or go back on as needed."