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Dell launches EqualLogic PS4000 iSCSI SAN for SMBs

Dave Raffo

Dell Inc. is expanding its EqualLogic iSCSI SAN platform with a product family for SMBs and remote offices built on the same architecture as its flagship midrange systems.

The EqualLogic PS4000 is a lower-end version of the EqualLogic PS6000

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that launched in March. Like the PS6000, the PS4000 is a 3U, 16-drive chassis that can be half populated or fully populated with disk. The major differences between the two are the PS4000 includes two Gigabit Ethernet ports per controller and only scales to two nodes, while the PS6000 has four Ethernet ports per controller and scales to 12 nodes.

The PS4000 family has three models. The PS4000E is a single or dual-controller system with 7200 RPM SATA II drives that scales to 16 TB. The PS4000X dual-controller system uses 10,000 RPM SAS drives that will scale to 9.6 TB when 600 GB drives are available next month. The PS4000XV also has two controllers, and uses 15,000 SAS drives, scaling to 7.2 TB.

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The PS4000 supports RAID 5, 6, 10, and 50 and the same software as the PS6000, including a new version of Dell/EqualLogic's Auto-Snapshot Manager/VMWare Edition (ASM/VE) due out in August. ASM/VE 2.0 will allow virtual machine replication and selective restores of virtual machines from snapshots – the previous version required administrators to restore the entire Virtual Machine File System (VMFS) volume. ASM/VE 2.0 is also integrated with the VMware vSphere 4 API for multipathing.

Unlike the PS6000, the PS4000 does not support solid state drives (SSDs). Neither system supports 10 Gigabit Ethernet yet.

Travis Vigil, senior manager for the EqualLogic product line, said customers can add a PS6000 if they outgrow the PS4000, and Dell offers controller upgrades to turn a PS4000 into a PS6000.

Vigil said Dell continues to carry the PS5000, but that was effectively replaced by the 6000. The PS4000 is an entry-level point for SMBs and remote offices.

"A lot of customers need a more optimized system for a smaller deployment than the PS6000, and a more attractive price," he said.

The PS4000 list price starts at $10,000 for a single controller and 4 TB of SATA disk. The PS6000 list price begins at $17,000.

Dell is also rolling out a PowerVault NX3000 system based on Microsoft Windows Storage Server 2008 that can be used as a NAS gateway in front of the EqualLogic SANs. It replaces the PowerVault NX1950.

Dell said revenue of the EqualLogic product line grew 71% year-over-year in the first quarter of 2009, and it has allowed Dell to become the market leader in iSCSI.

Taneja Group analyst Jeff Boles said the entry-level system can help get smaller companies into iSCSI and SANs in general.

"It's an initial building block for people to get into EqualLogic iSCSI SANs," Boles said. "They can start out here using the traditional PS series architecture, and add more storage down the road and pop into a PS6000 as they grow. I'm also excited to see the virtual machine replication technology built in. I was expected to see more of a dumbed-down approach."

Jeff Boardman, solutions architect for the Norwood, Mass.-based Corporate IT Solutions, said the services provider has been running a PS4000 in the lab alongside "a bunch" of PS5000s and a PS6000. He agrees with Boles about the value of the virtual machine technology. Boardman said he's used VMware Storage VMotion to move 15 Windows virtual machines and three servers on the PS4000 and noticed a speed improvement over the PS5000.

"I expect most customers will run from 15 to 20 virtual machines, mostly servers," Boardman said.

Boardman said he expects the PS4000 to get more use among SMBs than in branch offices of larger organizations because companies tend to install storage in remote offices that is compatible to what they're using in their data center.

"There's no reason it couldn't work in a branch office, but most enterprises like to stick with the same hardware. "We see it moving more toward small businesses, because it gives you more options to move to a virtual environment."


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