Listening to the industry: key Storage Center 6.4 enhancements

Gartner recently published its Critical Capabilities for General-Purpose Midrange Storage Arrays report, which evaluated fourteen “midrange” storage arrays.  The Dell Compellent SC8000 was ranked as one of the top arrays.    

At the start of the report cycle, data submitted to Gartner referenced the currently shipping version of Storage Center, version 6.3.  With the lag time between the initial survey submission and publication of the final report, a newer version, Storage Center 6.4, was released that wasn’t included in the report.  Since we agree with Gartner on many of these features being critical capabilities, I’d like to take this opportunity to share the details on our major enhancements in Storage Center 6.4 and beyond that were excluded from the report. 

A key capability of Storage Center 6.4 is the innovative use of write- and read-intensive SSDs that delivers a flash-optimized solution at the price of disk.  Enhancements to our tiering software, Data Progression, migrates data to the optimal tier of storage, and enables this capability.  Now, with Storage Center 6.4, Data Progression supports multiple tiers of SSDs coupled with real-time data movement.  This combination ensures that data written to the SC8000 is automatically migrated in real-time to the read-intensive SSDs for low-latency reading, while ensuring the write-intensive SSDs never fill up.  This technology gives Dell a huge advantage in the market, providing high performance combined with industry-leading economics.  Delivering flash at the price of disk is something we’re very proud of, and the latest version of Data Progression makes it possible.  Multiple analysts have reported on Dell’s favorable architecture that optimizes both price and performance.

Given that Gartner‘s report references an earlier version of Storage Center, the following statement is no longer true:

“…Dell Compellent was the first to deliver autotiering capabilities, but its data progression engine moves data only once in a 24-hour window and not in real time, which can create bottlenecks in fast-changing, dynamic, multi-tenancy environments.”

In fact, with Storage Center 6.4’s On-Demand Data Progression, the scenario is prevented.  While previous versions of Data Progression used a once-per-day algorithm, the latest version moves data on-demand to ensure the fastest tier remains available for incoming writes, maximizing performance.    Dell customers are seeing this in real-life, as the following quote from the P&V Group, a Belgian insurance organization attests:

“With Compellent Storage Center 6.4, Dell added a new feature to its Data Progression technology that changes the auto-tiering frequency. Before Data Progression moved data once per day.  Now, with the latest version of code, Data Progression runs as needed in the background in real time, keeping the SLC tier available for incoming writes.  With this change, our SLC drives are always available for incoming writes providing maximum performance at the lowest cost.  Since the upgrade to Storage Center 6.4, we haven’t yet filled the SSDs.”

While the Gartner report does highlight our unified SAN and NAS capability, I’d like to clarify the passage below:

“Although Dell can deliver block and file storage capabilities, a number of its established competitors are delivering more seamless, unified, or multiprotocol solutions.”

In fact, Dell’s approach to unified SAN and NAS is extremely flexible in how users can configure their storage environment, which drives down TCO.  Unlike other competitive approaches, which forces users to have separate file and block storage systems or require the addition of unnecessary hardware when expanding, the Dell approach of separate SAN controllers and NAS nodes delivers the flexibility to allow customers to choose where and when they expand.  Dell offers separate hardware controllers for block and file to provide maximum performance.  However, the overall user experience is fully unified, through a single pane of glass for both functions.  Our customers tell this story even better.  Another SC8000 customer, a media organization with file and block needs, benefits from the Storage Center/Fluid File System architecture outlines the flexibility of the Dell solution:

“Our workflow requires the use of both file and block storage, and the Dell Compellent system provides both with flexibility that translates into cost savings. When our needs grow, we can add just those components needed. For instance, if we need more file system performance we can simply add more Compellent FS8600 appliances without adding to the backend SAN. On the other hand, if we need more tier-3 capacity, we can add more drives. Other products considered aren’t as flexible. Plus, by being able to manage file and block through Compellent Enterprise Manager we have a single, unified management environment.”

Dell took a major step forward with the introduction of the Storage Center 6.4.  While the Dell Compellent SC8000 was ranked a top array even with older software, we’re confident the flash-optimized capabilities available in Storage Center 6.4 today make it even more of a leader. 

And, there is even more on the way with the recently announced Storage Center 6.5 Additional features include data compression, drive encryption and improved business continuity with Live Volume.

In particular, with Fluid Cache for SAN as part of Storage Center 6.5, Dell can now provide over 5 million IOPS.  Even more significant are the benefits for our users, including a 71% lower cost per Oracle user, and an impressive 99% improvement in database response times. 

Dell has delivered significant new capabilities over the last 6 months, which solidly reflect what Gartner and Dell customers prioritize as critical capabilities.  With the current Storage Center 6.4 release and the imminent Storage Center 6.5 release, now is the time to take a look at Dell Storage and learn what others have already successfully deployed.

About the Author: Alan Atkinson