Dell announces 'storage blades,' converged data center strategy

The new blade arrays can be combined with blade servers and switches in a single chassis

At its annual storage conference, Dell today announced a storage array in a server blade form factor that can be combined with networking and server blades in a single chassis.

Each Dell EqualLogic PS-M4110 Blade Array comes in four models and can hold up to 14 drives for up to 14TB of data per array, up to 28TB per group (two blades) inside a blade chassis, and up to 56TB with two groups inside one blade chassis. The drives come with a native encryption option.

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The Blade Arrays can be combined with the Dell PowerEdge M420 blade servers and Dell Force10 MXL switches in a Dell PowerEdge M1000e blade chassis to create a pre-tested and certified Converged Blade Data Center.

"This is a pre-tested, validated and certified, end-to-end virtualization solution," said Travis Vigil, executive director of Dell's EqualLogic product line. "That gives you better energy efficiency, fewer cables and less operation overhead by having the server, networking and storage in single blade chassis."

The Blade Arrays will have a starting price of around $20,000 and will be generally available next quarter, Vigil said. They have dual controllers and offer hot-swap capabilities, allowing administrators to pull and replace drives or controllers without disrupting service.

The new arrays come in models that have one or two controllers, use 7 2.5-in SAS hard drives with capacities ranging from 146GB to 1TB and spindle speeds ranging from 7200rpm to 15,000rpm. The arrays can also take 2.5-in SAS SSDs (solid-state drives).

In hybrid models with a combination of drive types -- hard drives and SSDs -- tiering software automatically migrates the most frequently used data to the highest performing spindles, Vigil said.

Vigil referred to the Blade Arrays as the last in a three-pronged product line that includes the servers, launched last quarter, and the switches, released a month ago.

The Blade Arrays are being targeted for use as a traditional storage area network for consolidating storage in Exchange, SQL database and Sharepoint environments. The hybrid models are aimed at VDI (virtual desktop infrastructures) to address boot storms and end-of-day shut downs, Vigil said.

The high-performance Dell EqualLogic Blade Array model - the PS-M4110XV -- supports up to 4,690 IOPS (I/Os per second) in a SQL transactional workload and up to 500MB/sec in a SQL data warehousing workload. The midrange PS-M4110X Blade Array supports up to 6,000 Exchange 2010 mailboxes, according to Dell.

The new Blade Arrays come with EqualLogic Array Software 6.0 that automatically virtualizes storage capacity and offers synchronous data replication, and snapshots. It also is now integrated with Microsoft Sharepoint for snapshotting of data. Until now, the software had been integrated with VMware, Exchange, SQL and Linux file systems.

The software also has a new feature called Volume Undelete, which is a capacity reclamation feature; whenever a thinly provisioned volume decreases in size, the capacity that is unused is reclaimed so it can be used in a storage pool by other applications. And it introduces automatic diagnostic data collection, which automatically sends data back to Dell Support.

"If a customer calls in for support, we have that historical diagnostic data, which helps us speed time to resolution," Vigil said.

Dell also announced it will be moving away from using third-party hardware from Xyratex and will be using only Compellent storage with Dell servers from now on.

Dell acquired Compellent about 18 months ago.

"Six months ago, we released StorageCenter version 6, which was the transition to a 64-bit operation system. Now we're moving off third-party hardware that was part of the Compellent architecture and we're now onto Dell-based [server] hardware," said Bob Fine, director of marketing for Dell Compellent.

Fine said moving to Dell hardware will upgrade systems to a Intel Sandy Bridge processor, which offers a six-core architecture. The new hardware will also offer five times greater memory than previously offered with Xyratech. Memory can now scale from 32GB to 128GB.

Additionally, Dell announced its vStart 1000, a pre-configured and tested private cloud infrastructure using Compellent storage arrays blade servers and switches.

Previously, Dell's vStart pre-tested infrastructures used PowerEdge servers, Dell PowerConnect switches and EqualLogic storage arrays. Those configurations included the vStart 50, 100, and 200, which represented the number of virtual machines the infrastructure could support.

The vStart 1000 now uses Compellent storage arrays, and as the name indicates, supports up to 1,000 virtual machines. "So for the first time we're using Compellent storage in our vStart program," Vigil said.

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed. His e-mail address is

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