Live Volume

Compellent is establishing a track record of being one of the most innovative companies in the storage market. It’s Data Progression feature, which allows the controller to move blocks of data to cost and performance correct tiers of storage, was one of the first automated tiered storage solutions on the market and allows customers to not only take advantage of the cost savings of SATA storage but also the performance of solid state storage.

News Analysis

George Crump, Senior Analyst

Compellent Technology is a client of Storage Switzerland

Storage Center 5.4 eliminates much of this back and forth between interfaces and allows a single administrator to easily perform both the server virtualization management and storage management functions by providing a vCenter Client plug in. Now from the vCenter interface Compellent storage systems can be provisioned and managed which, based on early user feedback, cuts some storage management processes from 1 hour to 1 minute. Today’s economic realities is that in many environments the VMware admin and storage manager are the same person, simplifying the storage management process will allow further exploitation of the virtualized server environment which will bring additional cost savings and flexibility to the data center.

Faster Hardware

Compellent’s Storage Center 5.4 release coincides with an upgrade in the hardware capabilities of the system. Compellent has long touted the advantages of using industry standard, off the shelf hardware as the platform to run Storage Center on. It allows them to ride the technological wave and concentrate on developing robust storage software instead of spending R&D dollars on proprietary hardware design.

The new Series 40 Controllers bring faster processing capabilities with greater port count. This increases either the number of I/O channels out to servers or the I/O channels back to storage shelves to provide greater scale where needed. The system now can use 6GB SAS shelves and drives for faster I/O between the data and the storage controller.

Finally in terms of performance Compellent also added support for drive shelves that support 2.5” form factor drives. While these drives offer slightly less capacity they allow you to pack in twice as many drives in the same space. For example in a 6U space 3.5” drive shelves can offer 32 spindles, with 2.5” drives that number more than doubles to 72 bringing a 2X increase in IOPS per shelf. This capability may delay or even eliminate the need to add a solid state disk (SSD) tier which saves money while still responding to performance demands. However when SSD is needed Compellent supports that technology and Data Progression makes it easy to implement.

Storage Center 5.4 brings another new innovation, Live Volume, which allows for the live migration of a volume of data from one Compellent storage system to another without disruption of the server and application that is using that volume. Think of it as vMotion for storage. There is a multitude of possibilities for Live Migration and it can provide a near infinite scale to a Compellent environment. Instead of fork lift upgrading to a new storage platform and replacing the old one a new system can be purchased, certain volumes can then be live migrated to the new storage system but others kept on the original system, all the while managing both systems from a single GUI. We will take a detailed look at possibilities of abstraction of the storage volume from the storage controller to deal with meeting scaling and flexibility needs within the data center in an upcoming article.

Tighter VMware Integration

Server virtualization needs shared storage to enable key features like virtual machine migration (vMotion), automated load balancing (Distributed Resource Manager), High Availability (VMware HA) and automated disaster recovery (Site Recovery Manager). The problem is that implementing, operating and maintaining that shared storage environment has been problematic for many VMware environments. It requires a fairly sophisticated orchestration between storage management and virtual infrastructure management and requires issuing commands from the storage systems software and VMware vCenter in just the right sequence. It also means that ongoing storage management tasks need to be collated between the two separate infrastructures.

Connectivity - FCoE Now

One of the other benefits of riding the technology wave in hardware is being able to move to new connectivity options at a faster pace. The aforementioned 6GB SAS is a good example but with Storage Center 5.4, Compellent also adds another connectivity option; FCoE. Because the Compellent controllers are based on industry standard hardware, adding connectivity is a matter of software support and installing the card into the controller. The 5.4 release adds support for FCoE to the current options of Fibre Channel and 10Gb iSCSI.

This makes Compellent customers one of the first to be able to truly take advantage of converged Ethernet in a meaningful way. One of the hindrances with the FCoE and Ethernet convergence thus far has been that a fibre bridge was still required to provide storage connectivity since there were limited options for native FCoE storage. This bridge or gateway adds cost and complexity. Thanks to Storage Center 5.4 FCoE is a reality right now allowing data centers to take advantage of cable and network interface card reduction savings as well as the improved capabilities that Data Center Ethernet provides like lossless connectivity and moving away from the limitations of spanning tree protocol.

Storage Switzerland’s Take

Storage Center 5.4 is an important step forward for Compellent and its existing customers who can upgrade to the new version of the software as well as add FCoE support, no matter when they purchase their Compellent storage systems. Prospective storage buyers that are looking to improve their server virtualization storage infrastructure should consider Compellent thanks to the tight VMware integration. Larger enterprises would do well to consider Compellent’s Live Volume capability, which provides an interesting alternative to the “scale-out” craze by offering a scalable storage system with the benefits of both scale-up and scale-out architectures.