EMC offers upgrades to automated tiering, Clariion and Celerra arrays

Performance on arrays get a boost with Intel's Westmere processor

EMC today unveiled upgrades to its midrange Clariion storage array and Celerra network-attached storage (NAS) gateway as well as new block-level data compression technology in its Fully Automated Storage Tiering (FAST) software.

FAST software allows data volumes to be dynamically moved between tiers of storage on EMC's storage arrays, depending on business performance needs. Combined with solid-state drives (SSDs), it creates a multi-tiered architecture within a storage array, placing the most I/O intensive data on flash storage with less frequently accessed data on SAS or SATA drives.

EMC said it has increased the granularity with which its FAST software can move data among the tiers. Previously, data had to be moved in 1TB increments. Now it can be migrated in 1GB units, which will help use costly, high-end SSDs more efficiently, according to Jon Siegal, an EMC director of product marketing.

EMC also introduced FAST Cache, which utilizes a portion of the SSD capacity in a tiered array as a type of non-volatile cache to increase performance for the most I/O intensive applications. Administrators can choose how much SSD capacity to allocate to the cache.

The FAST suite now also offers block-level compression. Previously, the software allowed only file-level compression. Siegal said users should be able to reduce storage capacity requirements by as much as 50% with the compression feature.

On the data management front, EMC is now also shipping its Unisphere management software, which allows its Clariion and Celerra NAS gateway to be managed through a single user interface. EMC originally unveiled the Unisphere software at its user conference in May.

Unlike earlier management software ofered by EMC -- Navisphere and Celerra Manager -- Unisphere works with both SAN and NAS technology. Clariion and Celerra storage units had been managed with Navisphere software previously.

Unisphere manages all CX arrays with FLARE 19 and newer operating code, and it manages all Celerra units with NAS 6.0 OS and newer. While Navisphere did manage the entire line of CX arrays, it also was required for the Celerra to manage the block option (Fibre Channel or iSCSI).

EMC said it has also made available native Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) on both its midrange Clariion and Celerra devices through a hot-pluggable I/O module. "We just want to [allow] our customers to add any protocol they need to," Siegal said.

The company said it has also integrated its Unisphere management software with VMware's vCenter, allowing VMware administrators to allocate storage with only a couple of mouse clicks. Traditionally, allocating storage capacity, even in virtual environments, falls to storage administrators.

The unified management suite integrates out of the box with VMware vSphere and VMware vStorage APIs for storage arrays, Siegal added. "It's the ability to manage virtual and physical environments together," he said. "What we've done is taken advantage of the latest plug ins and APIs from vCenter and vSphere."

EMC said its Clarrion array and Celerra gateway are now available with Intel 's latest Westmere Xeon 5600 processor, which Siegal said will roughly double the I/O performance over the previous CPU. The two new models, the Celerra VG2 and Celerra VG8, are available immediately.

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com .

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This story, "EMC offers upgrades to automated tiering, Clariion and Celerra arrays" was originally published by Computerworld.

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