Storage Forum: Dell Extends Fluid Data Architecture

By Alison Diana

Dell has extended the reach of its Fluid Data Architecture with its announcement of new and updated solutions, designed to enable partners to reduce organizations’ cost of storage, while simultaneously improving performance, security and efficiency. Dell announced the enhancements during its partner and customer Dell Storage Forum event in Orlando today.

Fluid Data Architecture, the technological centerpiece of this year’s conference, is the result of Dell’s acquisitions of EqualLogic, Exanet, Ocarina and Compellent, and the company’s ongoing transition from a reseller of EMC storage systems to a developer of storage solutions. Its new Dell EqualLogic FS7500—announced today and slated for delivery in the third quarter of 2011—adds scalable network attached storage (NAS) to EqualLogic products. Dell also added Fibre Channel to its popular PowerVault and Compellent offerings.

The FS7500 uses the Dell Scalable File System, which is a high-performance clustered file system that includes advanced caching, load-balancing and multi-threading for fast I/O processing. New features are available to existing customers for no fee. The new product also offers N-way scalability with automated failover and one namespace; scale-out CIFS and NFS support; all-inclusive software delivery; integrated EqualLogic management; user-accessible snapshots, and Network Data Management Protocol backup.

"When you drop in the FS7500 it’s recognized as a group member of the solution. It integrates it seamlessly," said Brett Roscoe, executive director of data management solutions for Dell's PowerVault family of products.

Dell showed off the FS7500 to overwhelmingly positive response. Conference attendees, widely made-up of EqualLogic and Compellent VARs, view the latest technology as filling a need and space in the hotly-contested storage market.

"It blew my mind," said Tom Worosz of Vision Business Products in Newington, Va. "The unified storage piece is critical."

In addition to the FS7500, Dell also unveiled Dell EqualLogic software version 5.1, which delivers iSCSI networking enhancements via Data Center Bridging support. The standards-based software—available free next quarter—is designed to provide improved performance through automated load-balancing and enhanced integration with VMware environments, according to Dell.

The new PowerVault MD3600f and 3620f storage arrays offer Fibre Channel connectivity and continue to support the existing hardware and software features available in the PowerVault MD32x0/36 x0 series of arrays, said Roscoe. The new models, slated to ship on June 14, provide customers with up to a total of eight 8Gbps Fibre Channel ports—up to four redundantly connected servers, without the need for a switch.

"We continue to transform our storage business through acquisitions and developing our own intellectual property," said Darren Thomas, vice president and general manager of Dell Storage, in a statement. "Our Fluid Data Architecture provides a strategy that helps customers lower the complexity and costs of managing their data."

Finally, Dell demonstrated 16Gbps Fibre Channel infrastructure interoperability between a Dell Compellent Storage Center SAN with a Brocade 6510 16GB Fibre Channel switch and a Brocade 1860 16Gb Fabric Adapter. Dell plans to release this fall 16Gbps Fibre Channel offerings, the company said, which will be designed to help end-customers’ SAN environments support both next-generation applications and cloud services.

The developer, which continually emphasized its growing relationship with the channel during the conference, stressed the success—both financial and partner-wise—of its EqualLogic acquisition. The Dell Storage Forum included many Compellent solution providers, who became Dell partners when the large developer purchased the storage firm about four months ago.

"Just like we did with EqualLogic our intent is to grow the channel ," Paul Shaffer , executive director of marketing and operations, told a filled conference room. In fact, EqualLogic’s channel has grown five-fold since Dell’s acquisition four years ago, Shaffer said.

When they were separate organizations, Compellent had 454 partners, and Dell had more than 2,200 partners. Together, they have more than 2,500 partners, he noted.

This article was originally published on 2011-06-07