Dell Planning New Storage Tech for 2013

Days after announcing its converged infrastructure platform, the Active System 800, Dell is already dropping hints about its future development path, confirming its intention to use the tech it acquired with RNA Networks to deliver new storage options.

Speaking at the Dell Storage Forum in Sydney last week, Ben Roscoe (Dell, General Manager – PowerVault Data Management) said the company is looking to use the technology acquired with RNA Networks to provide “integration points closer to the server”. This builds directly from the presentation that Don Ferguson (Dell CTO Dell Software Group) and Jai Menon (Dell CTO Enterprise Solutions Group) gave at the Dell Enterprise Strategy Update in San Francisco last week where Dell introduced the Active System 800. Ferguson and Menon shared their vision on how pooling server-side flash across multiple Active System nodes would speed performance of database and web apps.

Don Ferguson and Jai Menon at Dell Enterprise Strategy Update San Francisco 2012
Don Ferguson and Jai Menon at Dell Enterprise Strategy Update San Francisco 2012

This all strongly suggests that Dell will use its RNA Networks DNA to cluster and pool server-side flash synchronizing memory across multiple server nodes in an SMP or NUMA-like configuration. Roscoe described Dell’s goal as being to “treat it as a storage tier resident in the server”, clearly looking for it to be managed using the Dell Compellent automated tiered storage software. Roscoe would not confirm when Dell would be delivering on this vision other than to say it would be at some point in 2013. However, given that new blade hardware would be called for to accommodate on-server flash, it will probably not be until the latter part of the year.

This kind of performance will no doubt command a significant premium, putting it out of reach of mundane iOPS intensive tasks like VDI, which is probably why Dell is not looking to this as its storage backbone. Speaking at the Storage Forum, Phil Davis (Dell, VP – Enterprise Services Group) emphasized that “flash in a box” high-performance SSD arrays presented a larger opportunity. Although an order of magnitude slower than server-side flash, it is both lower cost and more flexible in its packaging.