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Compellent says smaller businesses can dodge forklift upgrades with QuickStart Fibre Channel SAN

Beth Pariseau
Compellent Technologies Inc. is adding a QuickStart SE Fibre Channel (FC) storage

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area network (SAN) bundle to help small businesses upgrade from direct-attached storage (DAS) to a SAN with the ability to eventually upgrade to the full version of its StorageCenter SAN system.

The QuickStart SE bundle is the latest in a series of more than a dozen bundles Compellent sells through channel partners, which include bundles featuring SATA disks, iSCSI connectivity, multiprotocol access, and tiered storage data migration. Compellent has also previously offered a QuickStart MSE bundle for midsized enterprises, but VP of marketing Bruce Kornfeld said channel partners were calling for a smaller bundle with a lower price point.

"This bundle is intended for customers with at least five to 10 servers, who are looking to transition to SAN storage from DAS," Kornfeld said.

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QuickStart SE includes 4.8 TB of FC disk, a controller, core software, snapshots, and thin import and thin provisioning software. Unlike the MSE and ILM bundles, it does not include Compellent's sub-LUN migration utility, Data Progression. It also does not include replication, though Kornfeld said users can turn on these features with an additional license key.

While the features are included in the enterprise edition without additional licensing, Kornfeld said customers in this economy are looking to avoid capital outlay by starting small and growing big. They could still grow into the Storage Center product, but "the cost per gigabyte of storage is still going down," Kornfeld pointed out. "Why should the user pay for today's disk drives if they don't need the capacity?"

John Meade, system analyst for the Provo County, Utah Library, added the QuickStart SE bundle to support a new VMware server virtualization project. Meade said that project showed how quickly software features can add up when bought individually. "We wanted to run VMware's VMotion, but the government kit without the feature was $3,000, and the next step up was $9,000," he said. "That's just too much for one component."

Meade said he would like to integrate the Compellent product with VMware's Site Recovery Manager, but that depends on price.

One industry analyst wondered why Compellent left replication out of the bundle. "I can't speak for why [replication wasn't included] in the bundle -- it's one of the questions I have about it," said Wikibon.org co-founder David Vellante. "You'd think if they're packaging it up and stressing the solution that would be one of the things you're getting -- although maybe a small environment can get by with local snapshots and going offsite with tape."

The bundle's list price is $25,500, about half the cost of the enterprise-level StorageCenter SAN. Organizations can directly upgrade from the SE bundle to a full StorageCenter with the addition of switched bunch of disks (SBODs) and software licenses, which is how Kornfeld said Compellent intends to differentiate itself in an increasingly competitive small-business storage market. Many products are priced below the QuickStart SE bundle, but can't be upgraded to full midrange systems. "You can't make a [Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP)] MSA into an EVA," Korenfeld said. "You can't make an [EMC Corp.] AX array into a Clariion array. Some other products might be cheaper to start with, but in a year, it's painful."

Meade said he'd considered HP's EVA Starter Kit, but wound up going with Compellent because he could attach hosts to the QuickStart SE bundle over iSCSI. "The [HP] Starter Kit was $12,000 just for [HBAs], Fibre Channel switch and cables, and every server we added would take another $600 to $900 card," he said. "I'm an HP fan, but it wasn't in my price range."

Vellante added that while QuickStart SE doesn't require a forklift upgrade to reach the enterprise version, downtime is usually required for even "nondisruptive" upgrades. Even if not required, it's scheduled anyway for the sake of caution in real-world environments. "Theoretically you can do a controller upgrade without downtime in a dual-controller environment by taking down first one controller and then another," he said. "But without a quorum disk like the one used by [Hitachi Data Systems] HAM [High Availability Manager], which can be used to recover [data] if something goes wrong, it can make IT guys nervous. Even if the vendor claims a nondisruptive migration plan, some will schedule downtime just to be more comfortable. "


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