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In its first product refresh since acquiring EqualLogic’s SAN storage line in more than a year, Dell will roll out enhancements to hardware, software and services that will help solution providers take advantage of customers’ need to consolidate their data centers and deploy virtualization and SSD technology.

Data center technologies including virtualization and storage solutions continue to be a bright spot in an otherwise dim economic outlook, says Travis Vigil, senior manager, Dell/EqualLogic storage line.

IDC research shows the sector can expect nearly 60 percent growth, and with the EqualLogic acquisition, Dell controls about 31 percent of the iSCSI SAN market. However, Dell and competitors IBM and HP are facing new competition from Cisco Systems, which last week announced its first blade servers.

The enhancements to the EqualLogic line are aimed at easing consolidation of storage, servers and network services into one architecture that’s further optimized to allow for virtualization, says Vigil. Many storage architectures weren’t designed to incorporate virtualization, but the new P6000 line (which replaces the older, virtualization-capable P5000) will ease integration of these new products with legacy architecture. Vigil says the P6000 will fit into any existing storage array and chassis, and doesn’t require ‘forklift upgrades.’

“We’ve been working over the past year to make some major enhancements to the hardware, software and services components of the EqualLogic product line,” Vigil says. “This will be a complete refresh for us, moving from the P5000 line to P6000,” he says.

Hardware enhancements include a redesigned storage controller, double the cache, a faster processer and the addition of a fourth gigabit Ethernet port for significant performance enhancements, says Vigil.

But the addition of SSDs into the EqualLogic line is by far the most important upgrade to the products. Dell’s use of less expensive SSD drives from Samsung to leverage the scalability and performance of SSDs while still undercutting competitors on price. The inclusion of SSDs will help organizations that need storage and processing power for database-centric applications, says Vigil.

From the software side, Vigil says EqualLogic’s arrays will include new RAID 6 features, allowing the line to operate even in the event of multiple disk failures. In addition to the integration with both VMware and Citrix virtualization platforms, compatibility will be included for Microsoft’s Hyper-V, as well. Integration with these three leading virtualization platforms will make virtualized arrays much more simple and efficient to manage, Vigil says.

The software also supports VMware’s VStorage, which moves processor-intensive functions from the server to storage arrays for better performance, he says. 

Vigil adds that as data center deployments get larger and more complex, solution providers expressed the need for tools to help monitor and manage multiple arrays from a single dashboard. To that end, SAN Headquarters software is also a new addition, helping solution providers and their customers better monitor, manage and optimize their data centers.

“Our goal is really to make data centers and storage as simple to manage as possible,” Vigil says, adding that any Dell customer with a valid Dell support contract can take advantage of SAN Headquarters software, regardless of whether they bought the new PS6000 line.

An enhanced consulting practice will also be available for solution providers looking to better service customers that need help with networking and data center infrastructure design, says Sean Phelan, a senior manager of Dell Storage. Services

“Solution providers were asking for best practices and better support when customers asked,  ‘How do I do disaster recovery and remote data protection around WAN optimization?’ and their major concern was with backup integration—’How do I integrate with CommVault? With Symantec? With these other vendors?’” he says.

Pheland says Dell’s gearing up partners for advanced training to help them develop and deliver more complex data center, storage and virtualization solutions.

Phelan adds that EqualLogic partners will also be transitioning to Dell’s ProSupport support infrastructure, which is currently offered to all Dell products but will be new for EqualLogic products and solution providers.

“We’ll augment their existing support with the best aspects of Dell support,” he says, “Including  the ability to better manage escalations, faster shipping of new hardware and enhanced monitoring of environments,” Phelan says.