Partners: Free Update To SC Series Operating System Demonstrates Dell EMC's Commitment To Compellent Line

Dell EMC made a splash with the introduction of PowerMax and other storage products this week, but an anticipated free update to its venerable midrange SC Series is drawing the attention of partners who say the release could significantly increase system performance.

"Customers who already have the technology will be ecstatic," said Michael Tanenhaus, CEO of Mavenspire, an Annapolis, Md., solution provider that works with Dell EMC. "If you're about to spend $150,000 on an array that was 250,000 IOPs, now it's 500,000 IOPs."

The release is significant for the performance increase described by Tanenhaus, but also for the commitment it signals that Dell has to the SC Series, also known as Compellent, on the part of Dell EMC. Midrange storage is one of only a few areas of clear product overlap between Dell and EMC, and some speculated that certain lines, including Compellent, would be discontinued in the wake of Dell's acquisition of EMC in late 2016.

Related: Dell EMC Unleashes New PowerMax, XtremIO X2 All-Flash Arrays

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"The code release shows the further investment in Compellent," said Scott Winslow, CEO of Winslow Technology Group, a Waltham, Mass., solution provider and longtime Compellent reseller. "When Dell and EMC came together, there was a question about that because there were several mid-range platforms. This is a further sign that they're going to continue to support the Compellent product. We've got 400 Compellent SANs out there and about 125 customers, so that's good news for us, as a long-time provider of solutions around that technology, and our customers."

Jeff Boudreau, Dell EMC senior vice president and general manager for midrange storage, confirmed that the release, known as SCOS 7.3, is indeed on its way, but said the company isn't talking specifics while the update is being test-driven by some customers and partners.

"We want to get some run time on it, make sure it's doing everything we said it was going to do around performance, resiliency," Boudreau said. "After we get a certain amount of run time, we'll deploy it to the masses."

While the SCOS 7.3 release does highlight Dell EMC's commitment to the popular Compellent line, Boudreau acknowledged that he is undertaking a longer-term effort to streamline the company's midrange storage portfolio.

That portfolio, Boudreau said, includes about 48 brands and a dozen different storage subsystems. Maintaining them all independently threatens to dilute the business's R&D budget. Boudreau's strategy will likely include decisions about whether to develop, or simply maintain the technology in those product lines while consolidating branding, he said.

Today, Dell EMC's midrange storage stable includes Dell's Compellent SC and EqualLogic PS series systems, as well as EMC's Unity, VNX and certain XtremIO models, among others.

The long-running VNX line was still the top midrange storage revenue generator in the company's portfolio two or three quarters ago, Boudreau said. "There's not a lot of innovation coming on that platform, but ease of use, drive capacity. You'll see that on SC, you'll see that on Unity for a long time."

Dell put the EqualLogic PS series in maintenance-only mode before the acquisition.

"What we're trying to do is not leave any customer behind," Boudreau said. "Over time, investments will shift in terms of how much pure innovation is in it, or serviceability, ease of use, we'll assess that in terms of how we transition. My commitment to every customer in that space is that everything will have a next gen. It might not have the same logo or brand they had yesterday, but everything will have a next gen."

The code update is aimed at SC Series arrays from the SC40 and up, and effectively doubles flash performance and capacity, Tanenhaus said. In addition to the performance improvements, the update adjusts how 'hot spare' drives are handled to allow customers access to a greater number of usable drives, and improves intelligence around how pathing is handled between multiple systems, said Rick Gouin, CTO at Winslow Technology Group.

"Compellent is really well-positioned," Gouin said. "They were before the update, and they're even better afterward."