EMC's Ever Widening Array of Disk Arrays

With competitors nipping at its heels, EMC counters with hardware for storage infrastructures of every size.

EMC remains the worldwide leader for disk arrays, owning about 25 percent of the SAN market. But the company knows it cannot afford to rest on its laurels to stay ahead of the competition. HP, in particular, is quick on the heels of EMC, lagging by only a fraction of a percent, according to IDC.

So is 2006 the year where someone overhauls in its traditional stronghold? Or will the company extend its lead? Whatever the result, it’s clear these two will be fighting tooth and nail over the $2 billion-plus global marketplace. IDC reports that the sector grew by 18 percent over the past year. This has come about, in part, due to the appearance of a broader range of disk options, including a new breed of less expensive disk arrays for the lower end. And it is outside of the SAN array space that EMC is actually gaining ground.

The network attached storage (NAS) market, in fact, is now EMC’s area of greatest dominance. It holds sway at the top of the pile with 40.2 percent of the pie, followed by Network Appliance and a more distant HP.

“Over the last eight years, the average annual growth of information stored on disk arrays exceeded 60 percent,” says Tom Joyce, EMC vice president of storage platforms marketing. “This year we project the growth will exceed 70 percent.”

What’s driving the market growth and EMC’s position in the marketplace? Joyce cites lower cost tools for connectivity and consolidation, the advent of disk-based backup and iSCSI, all of which makes it affordable for small businesses to implement a SAN over IP instead of opting for FC.

As a result, EMC expects to sell plenty of lower-end boxes while continuing to do well in the mid-range and high-end. The reason, according to Joyce, is because a company’s size, storage demands and performance needs dictate the types of arrays it will purchase. Furthermore, organizations are increasingly adopting a tiered strategy of storage systems that span the entire product range.

Accordingly, EMC offers a wide range of products to cover most storage needs. At the high end, the EMC Symmetrix DMX-3 has a capacity of 1000 TB on up to 960 disk drives. It can be configured with FICON, ESCON, FC, native Gigabit Ethernet and iSCSI. Pricing starts at $250,000, rising based on configuration choices.

"The DMX-3 is the world's largest, fastest and most scalable high-end storage array,” says Joyce. "It can scale to one petabyte at high performance and full functionality. This enables massive consolidation at lower costs.”

In the midrange is the EMC CLARiiON CX500/CX500I. It holds up to 120 disk drives in 25 U of rack space with a capacity of up to 38 TB. It also scales up to 128 dual-connected hosts. It is available in either FC or an iSCSI.

Lower down the EMC product hierarchy comes the CLARiiON AX100/AX100i. Again, this has either FC or iSCSI connections. It has 12 serial ATA drives in a 2U (3.5-inch) rack-mountable enclosure with capacity between 480 GB and 3 TB. To make this attractive to its intended SME audience, pricing starts at around $5,000.

Additionally, EMC has unveiled four new models of the CLARiiON Disk Library (CDL), a simple-to-deploy, easy-to-use disk-based backup and recovery solution. The latest products feature new hardware and software capabilities that deliver up to twice the performance and capacity of previous models. These systems can scale to 348 terabytes capacity.

Combining the power and reliability of EMC CLARiiON networked storage systems with cost-efficient ATA disk drives and fully compatible tape library emulation, the new EMC CLARiiON DL310, DL710, DL720 and DL740 systems offer a wide range of proven solutions for rapid backup and recovery, says Joyce.

Low-End Thrust

Obviously, EMC is gearing up to be the provider of arrays for any occasion in keeping with what it perceives as an expanding SAN market where the customers have a wide range of needs, budgets, and expectations. As such, it has filled out its product portfolio with more midrange and low-end offerings to take advantage of cheaper disk alternatives. At the same time, though, it continues to invest heavily in its flagship Symmetrix brand at the high end.

“We believe customers will continue to apply a cost-effective tiered approach to their storage strategies by implementing different types of disk systems for various classes of tasks,” says Joyce. “Some organizations, for example, will use entry-level disk arrays such as the CLARiiON AX100 to extend their information infrastructure or even deploy their first SAN.

This article was first published on EnterpriseITPlanet.com.

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