EMC, IBM, Dell Beef Up SAN Product Lines

<P>The storage area network announcements keep coming. Over the last month new product and service announcements were made by three major companies: EMC Corp. (<A HREF="http://www.emc.com/">www.emc.com</A>), Dell Computer Corp. and IBM Corp.</P>

The storage area network (SAN) announcements keep coming. Over the last month new product and service announcements were made by three major companies: EMC Corp. (www.emc.com), Dell Computer Corp. and IBM Corp.

Storage for machines running Windows NT was a major component of each announcement. EMC added Windows support to several of its products and introduced a Fibre Channel-switching product with 64 ports that is capable of connecting Unix and NT servers to centralized storage. IBM unveiled a raft of new products that included support for Windows NT. Dell introduced an NT-only, complete SAN for departments and smaller companies.

At an EMC March 1 news conference in New York, the company’s president and CEO Mike Ruettgers justified EMC’s focus on the Microsoft platform by citing a market analysis firm’s study that showed overall storage needs in the enterprise growing to 1,400 terabytes (TB) by 2002, with 44 percent of that on NT.

"Starting today, [customers] can attach hundreds of Unix and NT servers," says Bob Dutkowsky, EMC executive vice president for markets and channels. "We now have a net that will allow us to capture and store huge amounts of data, including NT data, that just yesterday would not have been accessible."

The hardware centerpiece of EMC’s announcement was the Connectrix Enterprise Storage Network System, which offers up to 64-port switched Fibre Channel connectivity between distributed servers and EMC’s Symmetrix Enterprise Storage system. The company also announced new Symmetrix models with more than 9 TB of storage in a single system taking up 17 square feet of floor space.

Server hardware that is supported by the system includes Sun for Unix and servers from the four market-share leading vendors in the NT space: Compaq Computer Corp., Dell, Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) and IBM. EMC is working on certifying integration with other hardware. EMC also unveiled storage management software and services at the announcement. These products were made available immediately.

In late February, Dell demonstrated a small SAN that linked four Windows NT servers to a centralized storage pool using Fibre Channel, a fabric of redundant switches and a tape library. The company is shipping this solution for about $140,000.

Michael Lambert, senior vice president of Dell’s enterprise systems group, says the company’s SAN initiative has been in progress for 18 months. "The first step was to do some pilot implementations. The second step was to open it up to four servers. The next step is to double or triple that. You shouldn't look at four as being the limit," he says. "There’s no reason that can’t be eight or 16."

Dell worked with Microsoft Corp. to develop Open Manage Storage Consolidation Software, which allows servers to share storage without conflict. The demonstration version used an Exchange server, SQL Server, IIS and a file server all connected to about 1 TB of pooled storage.

Dell’s partners include Brocade Communication Systems Inc., Data General Corp.’s Clariion division, Computer Associates Int’l Inc., Crossroads Systems Inc., Legato Systems Inc., Seagate Software, StorageTek Technology Corp., Tivoli Systems Inc., Veritas Software and QLogic Corp.

The Round Rock, Texas, direct sales vendor plans to expand its service portfolio in support of the SAN solution. Starting in May, Dell will provide storage planning, storage consolidation, storage performance and backup and recovery services.

Dell began offering storage products last year. Its offerings include the PowerVault 650F Fibre Channel-based storage subsystem, the PowerVault 200S SCSI-based storage subsystem, the PowerVault 130T tape library and the PowerEdge Expandable RAID Controller 2. Up until now, Dell offered support for its storage products through alliances with NCR Corp., Unisys Corp. and Wang Global.

Earlier in February, IBM released details of its SAN initiative. The company announced three connectivity products: Storage Area Network Gateway, Fibre Channel RAID Storage Server and Fibre Channel Storage Hub. The company also unveiled two software packages, StorWatch Fibre Channel RAID specialist and StorWatch SAN.

The gateway attaches Fibre Channel-enabled servers running NT or IBM, Sun and HP flavors of Unix to SCSI- and Ultra SCSI-attached disk and tape storage. The gateway allows connection of those servers to IBM’s Versatile Storage Server, Magstar 3590 Tape Subsystem, Magstar 3494 Tape Library, Magstar 3590 Silo Compatible Tape Subsystem environments, Magstar MP 3570 Tape Subsystem or Magstar MP 3575 Tape Library Dataserver.

This solution can extend the distance between storage and servers by 500 meters, and 11 kilometers is possible when IBM’s Fibre Channel Storage Hubs are used. The hubs have seven ports and support transmission speeds of up to 100 MB per second. The Fibre Channel RAID Storage Server is designed for small clusters of NT or Unix servers running large database applications. Both of IBM’s new software solutions run on Windows NT Workstation among other platforms.