iceduneIn this research note we look at Dell’s version of storage hypervisors with a general re-cap on Dell storage.

2010 – Dell goes it alone

Dell’s storage business changed course in 2010 when it became blatantly obvious that it desired to control its own storage IP. One disruptive consequence was that it spelled the end of re-selling EMC’s products. But it was also the natural consequence of a wider strategy that Dell wanted to be reckoned as a system vendors like IBM or HP. This also meant that Dell’s behaviour needed to change in order to operate as a proper storage IP proprietor and ensure that customers were presented with a comprehensive end-to-end Dell storage portfolio. Interestingly, Dell had already signalled its potential intentions as far back as January 2008 when it acquired EqualLogic. This was followed by more acquisitions up such as Ocarina Networks which became a key part of the Dell storage OS, and Compellent in late 2010 which became the high-end Dell disk array.

So from 2010 onwards Dell not only needed a storage engineering strategy, but also a cohesive message why customers only needed to consider Dell for their storage purchases. As we approach the second year anniversary of Dell’s reinforced storage group the company has made significant progress. Dell has maintained its operational bases of the acquired companies which was good for continuity as well as retaining engineering talent. But it has also brought the engineering teams together to port the best pieces of its storage IP from one product to another.

Its disk array portfolio still refers to the EqualLogic and Compellent original product line names and both offer scale and many options. EqualLogic is the mid-range offering based on iSCSI SANs and Compellent is the enterprise SAN solution. Both lines share common elements in their storage OSs in order to give storage admins the same look and feel of their Dell storage.

Storage Hypervisor

The Compellent range is promoting the storage hypervisor concept through its Live Volume feature. This enables a grid of Compellent arrays between which volumes can be moved non-disruptively. That is not yet a common feature on other vendor’s arrays although some vendors articulate this function as storage federation. We have written about storage hypervisors where HDS and
NetApp use their array controllers as storage hypervisors. Ie. they both attach heterogeneous disk arrays, and so do the other implementations of what we call storage hypervisors.

The current Compellent implementation is therefore homogenous. If Dell however was to progress with heterogeneous support of other vendor arrays behind a Compellent controller, then that would put a powerful tool in the Dell toolbox. This would not only fit customers with multi-vendor environments, but it would also make it easier for those who want any easy way to migrate onto the Compellent platform. Without full storage hypervisor capabilities we believe Dell will have to consider alternatives such as federated storage, in order to prove its high-end enterprise storage credentials.

Image credit: ronniedankelman

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