New Idea From Dell: Yes it’s Possible! But Is It a Good One?

All-SSD system with tiered MLC and SLC
This is a Press Release edited by on 2013.06.10

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At its Dell Enterprise Forum customer and partner event, Dell Inc. unveiled new storage solutions and expanded analytics capabilities designed to help businesses improve their IT performance, support data insights and reduce overall costs.

Ed Fiore, VP of engineering for Dell storage, inspects a new Compellent SC280 dense storage enclosure at the company's Eden Prairie, MN, design center. One enclosure can store up to 336TB.

As businesses work to keep pace with massive data growth, many also are turning to IT systems optimized for performance- and data-intensive workloads like those required to analyze customer and business data for insights that help achieve their goals. In fact, analyst firm IDC projects the worldwide big data technology and services market will grow at a 31.7% CAGR with revenues reaching $23.8 billion by 2016. Infrastructure technology for big data deployments is expected to grow the fastest with the storage segment expected to increase at the highest rate, 53.4%.[2]

"While businesses continue to look to drive cost and complexity out of their data centers, they also are charged with finding flexible IT solutions that provide the optimal performance for the many kinds of workloads and applications they manage," said Marius Haas, president, Dell enterprise solutions. "Dell is best positioned with an end-to-end data center approach that provides open, scalable, integrated and automated solutions designed to simplify and generate the most value out of an IT investment. With today's portfolio updates, Dell builds on our innovative storage capabilities while allowing customers to pack more storage in less space and benefit from optimized performance for the most demanding environments."

Dell Optimizes Scalable Storage Platform
to Balance Customer Needs for Performance
Hungry Applications and Cost Effective Data Management

To help customers efficiently manage their vastly growing data while also addressing the needs of I/O-intensive workloads, substantial updates to the Dell storage portfolio support both growing scale and performance-hungry applications in one solution.

With next generation Dell Compellent Storage Center 6.4 array software, optimized for data-intensive workloads, Dell unlocks the potential of automated tiering and ties together new Compellent offerings:

  • Compellent Flash Optimized Solution offers a storage solution class with intelligent data placement across multiple types of flash technologies or in combination with traditional drives.[3] The solution can reduce storage costs by up to 75% compared to other flash solutions, and supports high performance and data-intensive workloads with full enterprise features.[1]
  • Compellent SC280 offers the best rack unit density of any major storage solution with up to 2.8 times more capacity than competing 2U enclosures. As Dell continues to drive system efficiency, this capacity-optimized solution for hosting tiered data can store up to 336TB in a 5U footprint while reducing data center space requirements.
  • Dell Fluid File System (FluidFS) v3 offers customers enterprise file storage featuring improved performance at one-third the cost of the market leader,[4] helping customers better accommodate performance-intense file workloads. Available first on the Compellent FS8600 later this year, FluidFS v3 can support 2PB in a single namespace[5] and offer customers the best rack density among major vendors in its class. The new release is expected to be the industry's first primary storage solution with policy-driven, variable block data reduction, de-duplicating and compressing redundant data when no longer needed.[6]

Dell Broadens Hadoop Capabilities, Enabling
Customers Flexibility in Turning Data into Insights

Dell continues to hear from customers about their big data challenges, specifically a need for solutions that allow flexibility and choice while enabling key insights from their data.

To address that need, Dell's plans for expansion of its Hadoop capabilities include:

  • Enabling customers to take advantage of Intel's Distribution of Apache Hadoop (IDH). Dell currently is testing a solution based on IDH with customers, which will focus on performance and security, and offer customers choice for solutions to harness the value of big data. Dell Crowbar currently includes integration to Hadoop and will integrate with IDH when Dell launches an IDH-based solution this year.
  • Support for Cloudera Search for Hadoop to enable less technical users to ask questions of big data more easily and quickly. Cloudera's new search capabilities add powerful full-text indexing to data stored in Hadoop or Hbase. Crowbar currently integrates with the Dell|Cloudera Hadoop Solution to accelerate open-source cloud development, deployment and updates.


  • Compellent Storage Center 6.4, Flash Optimized Solution and SC280 enclosure have planned availability for Q3 2013.
  • Fluid File System v3 has planned availability for early Q4 2013.

[1] Based on internal Dell TCO analysis of SSD drive usages and cost comparisons of MLC/SLC drives and spindle count performed in May 2013.
[2] Source: IDC, Worldwide big data Technology and Services 2012-2016 Forecast (IDC #238746), December 2012.
[3] Based on internal Dell analysis performed in May 2013, comparing Compellent offerings to EMC VNX Family, HP 3PAR StoreServ, HP EVA, IBM V7000, IBM XIV, Hitachi Data Systems HUS 100 Family, and Oracle Sun ZFS Storage Family.
[4] Performance results based on SPECsfs2008_nfs.v3 testing comparing Compellent FS8600 using 8-node, 24 SLC and 120 eMLC SSDs configurations to similar Isilon SPECsfs submissions. Actual performance will vary based on configuration, usage and manufacturing variability. Pricing results based on May 2013 internal Dell comparison.
[5] The FS8600 with FluidFS v3 will support up to 2PB in a single namespace, which represents approximately two times increase over the 1PB namespace supported at launch of the FS8600 with FluidFS v2.
[6] Validated May 2013 via review of Dell's major competitors' websites documenting their primary storage deduplication features.

Our Comments

Dell needs absolutely new products to see its sluggish storage business rebounding. These past years, the big computer manufacturer was not able to invent and accumulated acquisitions to modernize its portfolio, like EqualLogic, Compellent, AppAssure, Exanet, Ocarina and Quest Software. It's the same for HP and with better results for EMC.

          Dell SXC280

This time, Dell comes with an innovative idea being the first known company to have designed an all-SSD solution with tiering, not only between flash and HDDs, but between two kinds of SSDs, low cost and less reliable MLC and more expansive but more enduring SLC.

"In combination with traditional drives (...) The solution can reduce storage costs by up to 75% compared to other flash solutions," stated Dell. The percentage of reduction of the subsystem using MLC and SSDs only has not been revealed and is of course much smaller.

We think that this new concept of flash tiering is arriving too late. SLC is disappearing, being more and more replaced by eMLC with durability being much better than MLC for enterprise applications. So why do we need tiering between MLC and SLC, adding complexity and needing more processing, if only eMLC is sufficient?

Tiered SSDs and HDDs is a technology already applied by many flash subsystem makers. Inline compression and de-dupe into the SSD system, as offered for example by Tegile, and to be offered by vendors like EMC and NetApp, is the best way to reduce the price of an all-SSD device but is not available on the Dell Compellent flash-optimized solution.