If you’re a Global 500 shop, or have very high-end application requirements, you’re probably already tuned into this week’s launch of Dell’s new SC9000 array.  After all, with its extreme performance numbers, built-in business continuity features and enterprise-class cost-saving intelligence, the latest SC Series flagship solution will soon be appearing in some of the world’s largest datacenters.

But I’d like to suggest administrators of smaller storage environments also pay close attention to this announcement.  Because even if you’re not ready for SC9000’s massive multi-petabyte scale, the new array and its accompanying Storage Center 6.7 operating system introduce capabilities that could dramatically change the way your IT team creates business value.  

More than another big iron in the fire

To be sure, from a hardware perspective alone, the SC9000 is a performance and scalability beast – with enough horsepower to make any IT planner envious.

The already-robust SC platform now boasts dual 8-core Intel processors, over 4x the system memory, and a 12Gb SAS backend.  The result is a 40% performance improvement over previous SC products (internal tests have clocked over 360,000 IOPS with sub millisecond latency) – plus 2x the throughput to help all that data speed to your applications without bottlenecks, no matter how large you grow.

It’s all about the software base

But ultimately, despite its formidable hardware specs, the differentiating secret sauce of the SC9000 (and the entire SC Series) is NOT big hardware.  The real power is the flexible, virtualized Storage Center software foundation that evolves your solution to meet any challenge, now and in the future.  Virtualized to the core, SC Series is designed to completely abstract data from physical hardware limitations – enabling automated cost savings that can fundamentally transform businesses of any size.

Modern SC family values

Here are seven software-based SC9000 capabilities now available across multiple SC products.   I’ll start with flash, because it’s a hot topic – but please understand that SC Series’ well-known SSD advantages are just one outcome of an even more profound architectural advantage.

  1. Better flash optimization – Many storage vendors use the phrase “flash optimized,” but most take a simplistic approach with single-tier solutions built as if all flash media behaved the same.  Dell’s auto-tiering is intensely flash-aware, leveraging price/performance differences among SSDs to boost IOPS in ways that would be cost-prohibitive for anyone else.   That’s why Dell can offer all-flash arrays for as little as $0.65/GB (yes, 65 cents!) net effective capacity – and hybrid/converged solutions for even less.

  2. Deeper tiering, beyond flash – As an original pioneer of the technology, Dell’s auto-tiering methods remain the most comprehensive and beneficial in the industry.  Starting with a unified storage pool that virtualizes heterogeneous drives for SAN and/or NAS use, SC arrays spread volumes not only across media types (including “Tier 0” server-side cache) – but also across flexible “RAID tiers” within a physical tier.  By automating data placement based on real time use (warming data accelerates, cooling data cost-reduces), Dell simplifies management and squeezes every ounce of performance and capacity out of your drives.  

  3. Faster assimilation of new technologies – The same virtualization that helps SC Series blend best-of-breed media for cost/performance advantages also allows it to flexibly accommodate unknown futures.  TLC 3D NAND technology is a great example.  When we launched our new Mainstream Read-Intensive drives this summer, we cut our Tier 2 flash prices in half without sacrificing performance or durability, successfully leveraging TLC in our top-end arrays – while competitors were still trying to figure out how to re-architect their single-tier entry-only solutions!  It’s no wonder analysts said TLC seemed to be “made for Dell.”

  4. Simultaneous scale UP and OUT– Virtualization also makes SC Series more expandable.  The SCOS software lineup includes an optional “storage hypervisor” capability that abstracts host mappings, making it easy to move live data across multi-array federations.  Even as you build up a single array, you can exploit the capacity and performance of a much larger distributed system under unified management – with proactive policy-based load balancing guidance from Dell’s Volume Advisor feature.

  5. Smarter data reduction – And with SCOS 6.7, SC Series makes even better use of all that capacity, further extending your storage dollar.  Intelligent compression is now available for flash and HDD tiers, offering up to 93% capacity savings.  Compression is fully integrated with auto-tiering, so only the right data is compressed, keeping performance high and ensuring other features, such as SC Series’ unrivalled “thin” methods, remain fully active.

  6. “Always available” storage – Also new with SCOS 6.7, Live Volume Auto-Failover completely eliminates workload downtime in the event of unplanned outages and disasters.  If an outage occurs, Storage Center seamlessly redirects hosts to synchronized standby volumes on a different array – plus auto-repairs your resilient HA environment once the failed array comes back online.  No administrative intervention is required and best of all, it’s all native to the array – no separate virtualization hardware or software is required.   

  7. Pervasive enterprise integrations – With support for application-consistent snapshots in Oracle, cloud deployments via Microsoft’s Azure platform, VMware Metro Stretch Clusters, and secure flash datacenters, this release is SC Series’ most application-aware yet.  Dozens of integration touch points leverage Dell’s ubiquitous industry presence to make SC Series arrays a true symbiotic partner within your ecosystem.

Welcome to your Future Ready Storage

In short, the Dell World hoopla is entirely justified: SC9000 is the perfect capstone to a virtualized next-gen portfolio that now encompasses entry to largest enterprise in one unified platform.   And you can do more than window shop – because unlike competing flagship arrays, this is not a specialty product accessible via rip-and-replace upgrade.   With this release, Dell is actually offering ALL businesses an on-ramp to a supremely adaptable solution that can evolve cost-effectively to the highest levels.

So don’t worry about your size – I’m here to tell you, if you like the SC9000, you’ll find an SC solution that’s ideal for you.   The important thing is to choose the right storage foundation – one that will take you from the bottom (or the middle) to the top…with enterprise-sized value all along the way.