Dell Compellent Storage Center 6.4 and flash array on the way

Dell upgrades Compellent Storage Center OS to version 6.4 and announces Flash Optimised Solution all-flash array

Dell has announced the latest upgrade – to version 6.4 – of its Compellent Storage Center operating system (OS), plus a new all-flash array, a new SATA dense storage array and an upgrade to its Fluid File System.

The upgrade to Storage Center 6.4 is optimised for flash, according to Dell. Here, the company places the emphasis on the operating system’s ability to carry out automated data tiering and movement at sub-LUN level, with different parts of the same LUN living on different classes of storage media.

Storage business manager for Dell EMEA, John Everett, said: “We always look for a balanced approach to our customer base, and auto-tiering is where our efforts are focused here.”

But the company was unable to provide Computer Weekly with any information about how Storage Center 6.4 deals with the back-end tasks involved with management of flash-based systems.

To get the most from flash storage, operating systems need to closely manage potentially multiple voltages in storage cells and engage in numerous background management tasks to ensure solid state drive (SSD) media operates optimally.

The Storage Center 6.4 OS will be standard on new Dell Compellent storage products and available as a download for installation on Dell Compellent SC40 or SC8000 controller hardware.

Version 6.4 follows hot on the heels of version 6.3, which was released in March 2013 and which pushed the Compellent operating system into enterprise SAN territory.

Flash Optimised Solution

Dell also announced a Storage Center 6.4-driven all-flash array – named the Flash Optimised Solution – that comprises a package of single level cell (SLC) and multi-level cell (MLC) drives on one of its Compellent SC220 expansion enclosures.

The bundle comes with 24 bays, of which 12 are preloaded with six 400GB SLC drives and six 1.2TB MLC drives. It is also possible to install spinning disk HDDs to create a hybrid array. Dell claims 300,000 IOPS for this all-flash array.

That IOPS figure and Dell’s use of SLC drives seems to point to the likelihood that Storage Center 6.4 is not completely optimised for flash.

SLC drives use a single voltage switch per flash cell, while MLC uses two or more voltage switches per cell. SLC is falling from favour in the enterprise storage market, with most suppliers currently opting to use MLC drives and tackling the inherently greater difficulties of using MLC by coupling it with sophisticated operating software.

It is simpler to get greater IOPS numbers from SLC – Violin Memory, for example, claims one million IOPS from its SLC arrays – but all-flash array suppliers using MLC often claim more than 500,000 IOPS for their products.

Mainstream storage suppliers have engaged in a flurry of activity to gain all-flash capability in their product ranges over the past couple of years, and that has meant either buying dedicated flash array products (such as EMC, with its Xtremio purchase) or engineering new operating systems and controllers (such as HDS’s Accelerated Flash module).

Meanwhile, other suppliers have made all-flash arrays from existing products, such as NetApp with its EF540. It appears Dell falls into this camp by making an all-flash array option from an existing architecture.

SC280 dense storage enclosure

Dell also announced the SC280 dense storage array, which is an expansion enclosure for use with an SC40 or SC8000 controller. 

It is a 5U form factor and can house up to 84 4.2TB SAS drives with a total maximum capacity of around 336TB.

Fluid File System upgrade

The Texas-based company has also announced version 3 of its Fluid File System clustered operating environment. This is a scale-out operating environment that allows customers to build clusters of up to four instances of either Compellent, PowerVault or EqualLogic arrays (but not in combination) with a single namespace between multiple hardware instances that goes up to 2PB.

The Fluid File System product builds in data deduplication and compression based on Dell’s Ocarina acquisition in 2010. Version 3 will be available first on the Dell Compellent FS8600 later this year.

Dell Compellent Storage Center 6.4, the Flash Optimised Solution and the SC280 enclosure will be available in the third quarter of 2013, while Fluid File System v3 has planned availability for early Q4.


Read more on SAN, NAS, solid state, RAID