EMC keeps focus on high-end Symmetrix

Data storage market leader EMC Corp. last week announced three new Symmetrix disk arrays, saying they offer users twice the raw storage capacity and 16 times the number of mainframe Escon connections supported by the company's existing devices.

EMC said the new arrays will also support Fibre Channel connections for IBM mainframes. That matches a plan detailed in late July by IBM, which is due this month to begin shipping a Fibre Channel link that will directly connect its mainframes to the same storage-area networks used by Unix and Windows servers.

The new Symmetrix models the 8830, 8530 and 8230 are aimed at what EMC described as "hyperconsolidation" uses, in which islands of direct-attached storage are combined within a single RAID device. The top-of-the-line 8830 can hold up to 69.5TB of data and support as many as 80 PowerPC processors, the Hopkinton, Mass.-based company said.

The new arrays offer a 22 percent reduction in total cost of ownership through simplified management and increased storage capacity in smaller footprints, EMC said. But it wouldn't disclose prices, other than to say they start at about US$100,000 and can range up to several million dollars, depending on capacity, connectivity and other features.

In addition, EMC is offering to buy back storage equipment made by rival vendors in an attempt to entice users to purchase the new devices. That comes after two straight quarters of lower-than-expected sales by EMC, which has been hit hard by the slowdown in IT spending fueled by the slowing economy.

When economic conditions improve, "there will be a significant backlog in data storage needs," said Joseph Tucci, EMC's president and CEO. To try to minimize that backlog, he added, EMC "will buy back some of these isolated islands and sell you a Symmetrix system in return."

John Webster, an analyst at market research firm Illuminata Inc. in Nashua, N.H., said one of the most significant features in the new Symmetrix arrays is their ability to partition data storage caches into 16 distinct parallel channels.

"For years, EMC has been saying a big monolithic cache solves all problems," Webster said. "/[Now/], it said cache is becoming something of a bottleneck."

The three arrays are all available immediately. EMC also announced a new version of its Enginuity operating software and a series of mainframe-related functionality additions, including the native Fibre Channel connection between the Symmetrix devices and IBM's mainframes.

Tucci said that within the next two months, EMC plans to make new product announcements concerning its midrange Clariion disk arrays and detail new software related to automated storage management.

Meanwhile, rival Hitachi Data Systems in Santa Clara, Calif., last week announced plans to release a 2G bit/sec. Fibre Channel link for its high-end Lightning 9900 disk arrays next month and add native mainframe Fibre Channel support early next year.

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