All the goodness of Compellents enterprise features in a mid-market form factor and price.

It’s here, it’s here! Finally we are allowed to talk about it. The brand new all-in-one Compellent has launched yesterday here in Sydney. Internally we have known about it for months (and so have a few customers I bet) so it’s great to be able to talk about it in the open.

DISCLAIMER: I work for Dell. Enterprise storage is my primary employment and its my job to educate customers about Dell storage products. Saying that, the 10 people that read my posts all the time know I try and be upfront and honest and that’s what I’m aiming for in this post.

The Facts

storage-comingsoon-page-sc4020-v6_07The Dell Storage SC4020 is Dell’s first full-featured, fibre channel, mid tier array. The SC4020 is based on the current SC8000 platform but in a 2U form factor compared to the minimum 6U starting point for the SC8000. It’s a 2U shelf with 24 x 2.5 inch drives as well as two controllers at the back, kinda like an EQL but a different sort of shelf. Initially the launch is in APJ and will support FC only but the worldwide launch will be later in the year and then it will support both FC & 10G iSCSI.

the Dell Storage SC4020 will support up to 120 drives and will scale to 408TB of raw capacity, nothing to sniff at. It runs the same software (Storage Center 6.5) and has most of the same features of its big brother, the SC8000. The SC4020 has a single quad core processor per controller and for that reason it won’t support compression. Initially live volume won’t be available but that functionality will be coming soon.

Connectivity will be 8 x 8G FC ports (4 per controller) and 4 x 10G iSCSI replication ports (2 per controller). For this release in APJ it will only support FC but will support iSCSI down the track. As I mentioned earlier, iSCSI will be enabled for host connections when it’s launched globally. For now, the iSCSI ports are purely for replication.

Back-end connectivity has 2 x 6G SAS ports per controller. This will support a redundant loops that to support the 120 drives. I know a single SAS loop can support up to 160 drives but 120 drives is the limit engineering have placed on the SC4020. Compare this to the SC8000 that can support up to 20 x 6G SAS ports.

Dell Storage Enterprise MangerStorage Center 6.5 (SC6.5) is also being released in conjunction with the SC4020. SC6.5 will be available for all new SC8000 and SC4020 installs and GA available to existing customers later in the year. If you’re an existing customer and you want to get earlier access to the SC6.5 code reach out to your local Dell storage guy and we’ll get you hooked up.

The main features of SC6.5 – besides SC4020 support are:
– Self-encrypted FIPs drives
– Multi-VLAN tagging with iSCSI option
– Sync Live Volume with manual failover

Like any IT project it had to get a catchy nickname during the development stage. Because of the 2U size of the box it was dubbed the “Baby Compellent”, which is catchy but makes you think it’s a younger, less capable, immobile eating and crapping machine. My name for it was the “Dwarf Compellent”, full featured, strong, robust but just in a smaller package, and a rockin beard. :) It never caught on.

Pricing will be announced by Dell over the coming days. However, it’s always best to talk to your Dell sales rep, expect this thing to be extremely affordable for the feature set, especially in all-flash configs (think 70%+ less than competitors).

Now, imagine you are on a desert island, sharing a apple crumble dessert with a guy called Des Ert. Take time to reflect!

Mid Market FC – Who buys FC these days?

Why did we do a smaller form-factor Compellent? Our customers told us to, that’s why. To be more specific, the APJ market told us to. The midrange FC market in APJ is huge, especially in fine China. They love the stuff. The marketeers estimate APJ have 43% of the worldwide FC mid-tier market. That’s a whole-lotta small FC shops.

“But but but … you have EqualLogic. Can’t you use it instead?”. Look, I’m so glad you asked :). EQL is actually a great fit here but one snag, it’s iSCSI only (which works exceptionally well but some of you just have to have fibre in your diet).

Right Sized Solutions for the Enterprise

Another sweet spot for the SC4020 is Enterprise’s that want the Compellent goodness out at branch or remote offices but the full sized SC8000 might seem like overkill, and cost is important. The SC4020 can replicate to an SC8000 or vice versa and the disk configuration does not need to match at each site, just make sure you have enough space. Compellent replication is very flexible, sync, async, near sync, kitchen sink, cascade – the whole lot. Think of it this way, we could easily have a solution with 8 SC4020s spread out over various sites and distances replicating back to a larger SC8000 in the main office or a hosted/managed DC managed by the customer or Dell.

FATPOD – My new favourite IT acronym

FATPOD – Flash At The Price Of Disk, awesome. I can’t actually believe I hadn’t noticed that acronym myself. It’s great. The other one is AFA – All Flash Array but FATPOD wins fat hands down. [Dell Hat On]Right now, this is what sets Dell Storage apart in the market at the moment is the way we can mix multiple SSD types and spinning disk to make it go like the clappers but still have lots of capacity to store all your downloads.[Dell Hat Off]

One of the key advantages to the Compellent platform is the way it can optimise and combine write optimised and read optimised flash (SSD) so it appears as one tier to your applications. This gives you the blinding performance SSD can give with the price/capacity benefits usually only available with slower spinning drives.

The SSD tier uses a mix of write optimised (WI) SLC drives and read optimised (RO) eMLC drives. Currently the WI drives are 400GB and the RO drives are 1.6TB, both are 2.5 inch drives so we can 24 in one shelf.

For example, a full shelf of flash with 6 x SLC and 18 x MLC will give you approx 24TB of usable space and about 80,000 to 100,000 IOPS at 80%/20% R/w. Not too shabby at all.

The WI/RO (SLC/MLC) mix allows us to hit such a good price point per GB. Imagine if your branch office had more IOPS than your prod array :)

Initial tests in the labs shows the box has legs, using All Flash the engineers were able to max the array out at around 300,000 IOPS for 100% read workload and about 200,000 IOPS with a 70%/30% read/write ratio. Expect more offical numbers to be released over the next couple of days.

The beauty of Data Progression in the SC4020 is you can be flexible how much flash and spinning you put into the array, it just comes down to what you need the array to do, and if you need to grow it just add more disk. The pool structure of Compellent allows you to dynamically add new drives on the fly and they get assimilated into the exiting pool – restriping baby.

If you want to read more about FATPOD try this brochure from Dell or see Infoworlds review on it.

Now, imagine you are at home, in a bath, naked except for your socks, holding some wet pizza. Not pleasant is it. Stop.

Perpetual Licensing

The licensing is the same as it has always been with Compellent, you buy the licenses and you get to keep them, simple right? Well it turns out a lot of folks don’t find it simple, I think mainly because everyone is programmed to expect to buy licenses every time they buy a new array. The Dell position on this is very different. You buy your Compellent and license the features you want, when it comes time to replace that array, you reuse your existing licenses. In our eyes its still the same array it’s just that it’s been refreshed. On top of that, if you reach the max limit of an SC8000 and you need to scale out all good, you can leverage the licensing in the first array so that the price is much lower. There is a small expansion cost but it’s nothing like the cost of licensing a whole new array. Do a google search on Compellent perpetual licensing and no forklift upgrade and you’ll find heaps of info as it has been around for years.

In terms of licensing the SC4020, the base license enables you for 48 drives, then there are two additional license packs

  • Performance Bundle: Includes Data Progression, Fast Track
  • Remote Data Protection Bundle: Includes Remote Instant Replay (Sync & Async)

As with the SC8000, you only need to license up to 96 drives.

The SC4020 array will be supported exactly the same way the SC8000 is supported by Dell’s award winning Co-pilot support org which is great news for customers … and also the guys selling it :)

The launch at Kinglseys Steakhouse on Monday with some Customers, Press and Analysts.

I was lucky enough to attend the launch in Sydney on Monday (Yesterday). It was a great lunch and some excellent conversation. I recognised a bunch of the journalists but not many of the analysts. Man those journos are loud buggers :)

The lunch was kicked off by Joe Kremer, VP and President South Asia, Australia and New Zealand. He explained (somewhat gleefully) that we no longer have to report back to Wall Street anymore now Dell is private but things are going very, very well. He then handed over to Alan Atkinson who is the VP of Storage for Dell to announce the SC4020. On a side note, he’s a top bloke and very easy to talk to. I’ve found that a lot with Dell that the execs are very personable and will often stop for a chat, very unlike where I used to work. Alan went through all the stuff I have mentioned in the post above, although perhaps a little more formally. There were a few questions about the perpetual license model and how much flash can we stick in the thing from various Journos and on the whole I think it was received very well (although I’m biased). It was a short presentation which I think the crowd appreciated and we got into lunch and a beer or two. From there it was more casual one-on-one discussions and a bit of a petting zoo with the demo SC4020 we had in the room.

I had a great day and I want to do a special shout out to David (John) Holmes for getting me involved and trusting me with this. It’s my first time with a product launch so hopefully it’s been informative and useful.

Some photos I took from the event are below. I think I’m getting a bit rusty with the camera.

DISCLAIMER #2: If you can’t  tell I’m a dinkum Aussie so I spell like one. Optimized is Optimised, favorite is favourite, cheese is not orange etc.