EMC's New Arrays Get Mixed Reviews

EMC Corp.'s new high-end Symmetrix disk array line was lauded by analysts last week as a technological advance that puts the struggling storage vendor back in the speeds-and-feeds lead. But some IT managers were more skeptical about the value of the arrays.

As expected, EMC unveiled its Symmetrix DMX800, DMX1000 and DMX2000 arrays and touted their internal architecture as being the fastest on the market by far . The Direct Matrix Architecture technology provides bandwidth of up to 64GB/sec., EMC confirmed.

With list prices ranging from $409,000 to $2.5 million, the DMX arrays are 15% to 50% less expensive than earlier Symmetrix models, EMC said. Those prices translate into costs of 4 to 8 cents per megabyte, according to Ken Steinhardt, the company's director of technology analysis. "Our objective is to be competitive," Steinhardt said.

But the price/performance improvements didn't wow Joe Gottron, CIO at Huntington Bancshares Inc. in Columbus, Ohio. Gottron has more than 20TB of capacity on a Symmetrix array he bought last year. He said he's not interested in the new line because he doesn't see a solid business case for buying the technology.

A storage specialist at a large government contractor on the East Coast said he views the DMX line merely as stopgap technology aimed at stemming user defections to rivals such as IBM and Hitachi Data Systems Corp.

The specialist, who manages 48TB of storage on IBM's high-end Shark arrays plus data stored on EMC's Clariion midrange devices, said he was hoping EMC would roll out storage management software upgrades and increased multivendor interoperability.

"I thought EMC was going to be a software company, but they're so late to the game that I don't think they'll be able to break in at this point," he said.

He and Gottron also said they're disappointed that the DMX models don't include built-in support for IBM's Ficon mainframe connectivity technology, which is supported on older Symmetrix arrays.

Steinhardt said IBM is upgrading Ficon from 1G bit/sec. throughput to 2G bit/sec., so EMC saw no reason to link to the technology right away. Ficon support is due to be added in the third quarter, he said.

Jim Shaw, CIO at Management Science Associates Inc. (MSA) in Pittsburgh, was more positive about the DMX line. MSA has 30TB of capacity on four Symmetrix arrays and is testing the DMX800. Shaw said he likes the array's modularity because it will let him grow his storage capacity.

Shaw said he also appreciates the internal bandwidth boost. "We're getting noticeably better performance out of the [DMX] system," he said.

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Price Comparison

List prices for EMC's new Symmetrix DMX arrays vs. the cost of older models

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DMX800 modular array with 2TB capacity: $439,000

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Model 8530 single-bay array with the same capacity: $534,000

Difference in price: 18%

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DMX2000 dual-bay array with 18.5TB capacity: $1,465,000

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Model 8830 single-bay array with the same capacity: $2,017,000

Difference in price: 27%

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