LenovoEMC fortifies small-business storage with enterprise smarts

Snapshots, SSD caching, and VMs will be available in its LifeLine 4.0 OS

Small and medium-sized enterprises with no full-time IT staff are beginning to get some of the same features that large data centers have for efficiency and control.

A new operating system for storage gear from LenovoEMC will add features such as snapshot capability, automated caching and server virtualization. The OS, called LifeLine 4.0, will be available as a free download next week for users of the company's ix and px systems and should start shipping in products next month, according to LenovoEMC.

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Even as consumer products such as tablets and smartphones move into enterprises, high-end IT capabilities are finding their way into smaller organizations. Given the lack of IT resources and know-how in many SMBs, the trends toward automation and efficiency in data centers may suit them well.

LenovoEMC is a joint venture formed last year by PC maker Lenovo and storage giant EMC. Its ix product line carries the Iomega brand, inherited from EMC, while its higher-end px line is branded as LenovoEMC.

With LifeLine 4.0, LenovoEMC wants to help smaller enterprises get into the server virtualization game by a less-than-obvious route, through px12 rackmount storage arrays. That's actually a natural place for virtualization because it may be the only piece of infrastructure that runs full time in a smaller IT shop, said Bill Hansen, a global product manager at the company.

The IVX (Integrated Virtualization Technology) lets users set up Linux or Windows servers within the px12-300r and px12-450r arrays by creating virtual machines. In the VMs, businesses can run basic utilities such as Web servers and print servers and save the cost of buying, operating and making space for freestanding hardware, Hansen said. Users can assign a share of the storage array's computing, storage and network resources to each VM.

IVX runs on LenovoEMC's own hypervisor, which doesn't have all the features of major systems such as VMware but is easier for organizations without virtualization experience to run, according to Hansen. "We put the basics there," he said.

With Lifeline 4.0, LenovoEMC is also adding snapshot capability, the widely used enterprise storage feature that can capture a set of information at a given time and let users roll back to that version of the data. The snapshot software in Lifeline is compatible with the Volume Shadow Copy Service snapshot system used in Microsoft applications such as Exchange and SQL Server, Hansen said.

Another high-end feature coming in the new OS is SSD caching, which can automatically assign the most needed data to solid-state disks in an array. Users of Lenovo-EMC's multiple-drive storage systems have been able to install SSDs in one or two slots and use them as a high-speed cache to accelerate access to key information. However, they have had to manually set preferences for what is cached, Hansen said. LifeLine 4.0 includes software for doing this automatically. The Linux-based caching software is unique to LifeLine, though it shares some attributes with software from parent company EMC, Hansen said.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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