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Midrange SAN vendors boost solid-state and drive options

With desktop and server virtualisation driving the market, midrange SAN vendors boost solid-state and spinning-disk options to bring enterprise-like performance.

The midrange SAN market caters for small- and medium-sized businesses and small enterprises whose data requirements aren’t necessarily diminutive. Businesses can be relatively small in headcount, but financial transactions or scientific processing can generate storage demands characteristic of larger enterprises.

Still, these organisations don’t always have specialised in-house storage skills, so SAN vendors have developed their midrange offerings to improve capacity and performance, integration with virtual environments and usability for customers without specialist storage expertise.

So, what have been the key developments in the midrange SAN market over the past 12 months?

Most vendors have boosted their midrange arrays with increased drive type and protocol access options, with solid-state drives (SSDs) a prominent addition driven by the needs of server and desktop virtualisation. We’ve also seen tighter VMware integration and 64-bit array operating system upgrades.

Here we survey the vendors in turn.


The most significant development from Dell was the termination of the OEM agreement with EMC in September, although support agreements remain in place.

EqualLogic, which Dell acquired in 2007, is now fully integrated in Dell’s iSCSI SAN product range. The PS4000 and PS6000 are being replaced by the PS4100 and PS6100, both of which can house 2.5- and 3.5-inch hard drives. The PS6100 also supports SSDs.

Dell also rolled out a clustered NAS gateway to sit in front of its EqualLogic SAN last year. The NAS technology came from Dell’s 2010 Exanet acquisition.

Dell acquired Fibre Channel SAN vendor Compellent last year to appeal to larger customers that typically buy EqualLogic. In January, Dell announced that its Compellent Storage Center controller OS had attained Version 6.0.This brought 64-bit capability, with massively increased block addressability. Also part of the OS upgrade were integration with VMware’s vSphere APIs for Array Integration (VAAI), increased vSphere Site Recovery Manager (SRM) integration and vSphere 5 storage management plug-ins.


Since EMC launched its VNX and VNXe unified storage product in January 2011, it has extended the functionality and usability of the Unisphere operating system across the range. This allows IT professionals to manage different file and block protocols from a single interface, to help IT organisations lower the skills cost in managing SAN and NAS systems.

For example, the dashboard view now provides a snapshot of system resources for both SAN and NAS to open system alerts, as well as direct access to storage and system management options. It has also added best-practice wizards for key applications such as email.


In August 2011, HP launched the P10000 3PAR subsystems, with enhancements to hardware, software and operating system. The V400 and V800 models replace the 3PAR T-Series hardware. The continued retention of separate branding underlines how strongly HP views the 3PAR product roadmap.

The V400 platform scales to 800 TB, with the V800 scaling to 1,920 drives and 1.6 PB. They support Fibre Channel, SATA and solid-state drives and use the HP 3PAR Gen4 firmware. This is to simplify management by consolidating unpredictable workloads, such as financial trading and virtualised application deployments, without the need for manual separation of these jobs onto different storage resources or storage systems.


Since the launch of the Storwize V7000 in October 2010 -- IBM’s midrange SAN array based on its SAN Volume Controller (SVC) appliance -- the firm has boosted performance and capacity options.

In April 2011, IBM added a 15,000 rpm SAS drive option to the existing 10,000 rpm SAS to boost throughput capability. At the same time, IBM added support for 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10 GbE) on the system.

Last August, IBM added options for 300 GB, 15,000 rpm, 2.5-inch SAS for performance and 1 TB, 7200 rpm, 2.5-inch SAS for near-line applications.

In October, 3.5-inch SAS drive capacity was boosted to 3 TB, while solid-state capacity options were increased to 200 GB and 400 GB Enterprise MLC (eMLC).

In the same month, the vendor also announced the Storwize V7000 Unified array, which integrates the IBM software from its enterprise-level scale-out SONAS product. This means that although the V7000 remains block-based, the addition of new file modules as interfaces to the V7000 allows users to consolidate block and file workloads on one system.


In 2011, NetApp launched the FAS2240 as part of a refresh of its low-end FAS2000 platform.

With the acquisition of Engenio from LSI in March 2011, NetApp aims to boost the performance of high-demand data applications such as video and scientific analysis. This is NetApp’s first move into arrays that do not run the Ontap operating system used in the company's FAS series.

Engenio storage has been renamed as the NetApp E-Series. The E5400 midrange system, launched in May, is available in three models, scaling to 1.08 PB. The system supports 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch 2 TB SAS drives up to 15,000 rpm plus SSD up to 800 GB. And it supports 8 Gbps Fibre Channel and 40 Gbps InfiniBand.

NetApp also released OnCommand 5.0 in June 2011, an update to a management system it acquired with the Onaro acquisition in 2008. The upgrade allows the system to manage requests for storage from business users according to policy rules set out by the IT department.

Midrange SAN developments in 2011/2012


EqualLogic iSCSI arrays: scale-out NAS hardware module available

PS4100; scales to 36 TB with 3 TB 7,200 rpm SAS drives; 1 GbE access

PS6100 series: a number of models that scale to 72 TB with 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch 7,200/10,000/15,000 SAS drives; also, 400 GB 2.5-inch SSD

Compellent Storage Center series 30 and series 40: up to 15,000 rpm 3.5-inch Fibre Channel and SAS, up to 15,000 rpm 2.5-inch SAS, up to 1,232 Fibre Channel drives, up to 960 SAS drives; protocols,  Fibre Channel, iSCSI, FCoE; new 64-bit OS released in January 2012 with VMware integration

EMC EMC added the Unisphere Web-based management environment for its VNX, VNXe, Clariion and Celerra subsystems in 2011.
Hewlett-Packard 3PAR P10000 series V400 scales to 800 TB; V800 scales to 1.6 PB; drives: 3.5-inch only, Fibre Channel, SATA, SSD; protocol: Fibre Channel.
IBM Storwize V7000 unified storage: protocols, 8 Gbps Fibre Channel, 1 GbE and 10 GbE iSCSI, and NFS/CIFS; drives, up to 15,000 rpm 2.5-inch SAS, 3.5-inch 3 TB SAS, 200 GB and up to 400 GB 2.5-inch eMLC SSD

NetApp: protocols, NFS, CIFS, 4 Gbps Fibre Channel, iSCSI (8 Gbps Fibre Channel and 10 GbE capability via add-on card)

FAS2240-2 and FAS2240-4: capacity up to 374 TB (SAS drives) and 432 TB (SATA drives), respectively.

E5400: three models that scale  to 1.08 PB; 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch 2 TB SAS drives up to 15,000 rpm plus SSD up to 800 GB; protocols, 8 Gbps Fibre Channel and 40 Gbps InfiniBand.

Lindsay Clark has been writing about business technology since the mid-1990s.

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