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New NEC M100 Delivers What Midrange Arrays Today Must Offer: VMware Integration with Reliability

According to IDC, revenue from external disk storage systems totaled over $18 billion in 2010. But what that IDC number does not fully reflect is the growing impact that midrange arrays are having on organizations of all sizes and how well they are positioned to deliver the other key feature that organizations now want in their VMware environments: Reliability. Among the midrange arrays available, the new NEC M100 storage array is better positioned than most to deliver on these two features.

All midrange arrays share some common denominators in terms of feature functionality as these contribute to the attractive price points of midrange arrays relative to their high capacity and performance. The NEC M100 SAN storage array continues that tradition.

The M100 ships with the latest and greatest hardware components to provide the features that organizations expect any midrange array to deliver. Examples of the hardware that the M100 supports include:

  • 8 Gb FC or 1/10 Gb Ethernet storage networking interfaces. On an NEC M100 organizations may choose from the two fastest available storage networking interfaces: 8 Gb FC and 1/10 Gb Ethernet. This gives them the flexibility to use either the FC or iSCSI protocol in their environment.
  • 6 Gb SAS HDD interconnect. A high speed connection between storage controllers and backend HDDs is a prerequisite to achieving optimal performance. The M100’s 6 Gb SAS interconnect assures organizations that the M100 will deliver a high level of performance.
  • Solid state drives (SSDs). SSDs are a game changer as they dramatically accelerate application performance with read times that are as much as 20X or faster than HDDs. The NEC M100 is on top of this trend with its support for both 100 and 400 GB SSD drives.
  • High capacity drives. Some shops just require lots of storage capacity. To flexibly meet the needs of these organizations, the M100 supports up to 192 TBs using 2 TB 7200 RPM SAS drives.
  • Mix of disk drive types. Most organizations have a mix of applications with some that need high performance while others need high capacity. By supporting a mix of SSDs and HDDs, the M100 provides the drives that organizations need to meet their varying application requirements.

Yet in delivering these features, the NEC M100 simply matches what many other enterprise midrange arrays offer. To distinguish itself the NEC M100 does more than perform or scale. It provides the features that organizations need to confidently store data on it and then access it when they need it.

The latest and greatest features on a midrange array are only interesting to organizations if they can count on them to work reliably. In virtualized environments reliability has become even more important since unreliable hardware can impact multiple VMs. To prevent this from occurring, the M100 provides a number of features to ensure optimal reliability.

  • Active-Active controllers.  This high end storage array feature on the M100 is available on less than half of the midrange arrays on the market. It ensures that should an M100 storage controller fail, attached hosts experience little or no interruption in service. Further, this controller configuration ensures that when a periodic 30 minute microcode update needs to occur, it can be done dynamically without application impact.
  • Delivers 99.999% uptime. Availability is a necessity in virtualized environments as any midrange array outage has the potential to impact the entire environment. To meet this requirement, the M100 is fully hardware redundant so should any component fail another is immediately available to replace it. The NEC M100 also provides a number of alerting options to warn organizations of potential problems so they can be quickly resolved and problems or downtime averted.
  • No impact recoveries from HDD failures. As more VMs access the M100, even doing a rebuild of an HDD failure may cause an undesirable performance hit to applications. The NEC M100’s new SuperPhoenix technology addresses this concern. Prior to an HDD rebuild, it determines the extent of the HDD failure or if an HDD rebuild is even necessary. If it is, the HDD is rebuilt in such a way that application performance impact is controlled and minimized.
  • Solves silent data corruption in HDDs. All HDDs experience some data corruption over time that other midrange array systems may not detect. Using its SuperPhoenix technology, the M100 constantly monitors HDDs. If an HDD error is detected, the HDD is disabled while the M100 determines whether the HDD should be permanently replaced by running a battery of tests against it. By making this determination, the M100 ensures the integrity of the data without unnecessarily requiring a HDD replacement if it is a fixable error.

In addition to reliability, a growing concern for more organizations is the looming rate spike in their utility bills. Over half of state utilities are seeking permission to pass along hundreds of millions of dollars in rate increases in excess of 10%. This behooves organizations to select midrange arrays that are operationally efficient.

The NEC M100 addresses this emerging concern in at least three ways by supporting:

  1. The use of 2.5″ HDDs which require less power and space to operate than its 3.5″ predecessor.  
  2. Controller processors that run at a thermal design power of 30W.  This design is typical of processors from the 1990’s which only consume as much power as a 100W bulb.
  3. Autonomous switching to a low power mode. This demands less resources to the point that it even powers off RAID groups that are unused.

This combination of using smaller drives, more efficient processors and autonomously managing its power usage contributes to the M100 consuming less power and generating less heat than other midrange arrays while still delivering on the midrange array features that organizations need to remain competitive.

Finally, no midrange array may be considered a “complete” solution without virtualizing both its storage resources and integrating with VMware. The NEC M100 delivers on both accounts.
Using the NEC M100’s dynamic storage pooling feature organizations can mix and match storage in almost any manner they want. These pools can use different HDD types, support the introduction of SSDs into the pool and can even use HDDs that reside in different groups.

The NEC M100 also keeps pace with enterprise VMware adoption by updating its VAAI integration. The M100 now supports VMware’s Assisted Hardware Locking, Boot from SAN, Block Zeroing and Full Copy features so that the M100 may be managed holistically as part of an organization’s virtualized deployment.

Organizations today are all about building virtualized data centers but that demands they deploy a storage infrastructure which is cost-effective, efficient, highly available, reliable and manageable. The NEC M100 answers that call.

Its Active-Active controllers, SuperPhoenix technology, dynamic storage pooling and VMware VAAI integration provide more than the latest and greatest technology that organizations want in their virtualized environments. The NEC M100 delivers them in such a way that they can be confidently, efficiently and reliably implemented.

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Jerome M. Wendt

About Jerome M. Wendt

President & Lead Analyst of DCIG, Inc.

Jerome Wendt is the President and Lead Analyst of DCIG Inc., an independent storage analyst and consulting firm. Mr. Wendt founded the company in September 2006.

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