EqualLogic Releases Bigger Array, New Software - InformationWeek

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9/11/2008
07:53 PM
Howard Marks
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EqualLogic Releases Bigger Array, New Software

In the first announcement of new products since Dell acquired EqualLogic in January, EqualLogic's new PS5500E holds 48 SATA disk drives, boosting the maximum size of a single EqualLogic storage group to more than 500 TB. It also announced that it would release a software update for all EqualLogic arrays to support RAID-6 and software to offload the snapshot process from VMware Infrastructure hosts to the array.

In the first announcement of new products since Dell acquired EqualLogic in January, EqualLogic's new PS5500E holds 48 SATA disk drives, boosting the maximum size of a single EqualLogic storage group to more than 500 TB. It also announced that it would release a software update for all EqualLogic arrays to support RAID-6 and software to offload the snapshot process from VMware Infrastructure hosts to the array.I've always been a fan of EqualLogic's expansion model, which lets users join drive arrays to an existing storage group, adding RAID controllers, with their associated Gigabit Ethernet ports and cache memory as they add drives. Since EqualLogic's software redistributes data across the drives in the new array after its added to a storage pool, adding capacity actually speeds up an EqualLogic storage group.

Adding drive shelves to conventional arrays can cause contention for controller cache, the Fibre Channel loops that connect drive shelves to their RAID controllers and the bandwidth of the RAID array's front end ports through which servers connect to the array. This can mean that organizations that add capacity and move additional applications from DAS to their SAN and modular array can see their existing applications slow down as the new apps consume these limited resources.

The rub has been that EqualLogic only made arrays with 14, and later 16, drives. Users with applications like backups and archives that need large capacities but modest performance had to add controllers whether they needed then or not. The new 48-drive SV5500E gives them that option.

I was glad to see that EqualLogic is finally getting on the RAID-6 bandwagon. With 1-TB or bigger SATA drives, the probability that a drive in a RAID-5 set has a read error while the array is rebuilding after a drive failure becomes large enough to worry about. By switching from RAID-5 with a hot spare to RAID-6, EqualLogic addresses this problem without increasing the overhead of data protection. EqualLogic promises to deliver RAID-6 as a downloadable update sometime around January.

I was also pleased to see Auto-Snapshot Manager/VMware Edition, which ties into VMware's Virtual Center to use the EqualLogic array's snapshot capability to create virtual machine snapshots, reducing the load on the ESX server that hosts the server.

I was disappointed that the new system doesn't yet support 10 Gigabit Ethernet. While I don't think the SME market, where EqualLogic has been successful, is ready for widespread 10Gig deployment, the iSCSI market needs a leader to support 10Gig even if just to blunt the arguments that Fibre Channel is eight times faster than iSCSI. EqualLogic's Eric Schott explained that they're in part waiting for the short-distance 10Gig interface market to settle. Current 10GBase-T implementations are expensive power hogs, and SFP+ and CX-4 copper solutions are still battling to see who'll win out. Hopefully EqualLogic will come out with 10Gig controllers next year and make a controller swap-out upgrade available.

While I'm staring into the crystal ball, I also see a SAS version of the SV5500E for I/O-intensive applications. Forty-eight SAS drives could support a whole mess of IOPs.

Looks like maybe the Dell acquisition of EqualLogic may have been a good thing after all.

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