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December 08, 2009



It is worth pointing out a few fundamental differences between Compellents Data Progression and EMC's FAST. For instance:

Data Progression is a proven, mature technology that has been in use by customers since 2005.
FAST and other competitive solutions only have the capability to move entire volumes of data between tiers, while Compellent’s Data Progression moves data at 512KB blocks, regardless of the storage volume or disk type. Our customers can tune Data Progression to move up to 4MB pages depending on the application, but of course, the more granular the data movement the better. Because of this active management of data, Compellent’s automated tiered storage can save customers 50 percent or more in storage costs.
Data Progression and our Fast Track feature will also automatically migrate blocks of data based on frequency of access from the inner to the outer tracks of every disk drive, further saving about 20 – 30 percent in storage costs while improving performance. The fastest parts of a drive is typically the outermost edge. Some vendors put entire volumes on the outer tracks, which in many ways negates the efficiency advantages of automated tiering.
Data Progression also tiers data between RAID volumes, so for example, in a single tier of FC storage a Compellent customer can migrate the inactive blocks off of RAID 10 to RAID 5 to further save on disk costs and free up their RAID 10 space for higher-performance needs. Compellent recommends customers use RAID 5 and slower high-capacity drives for read-only snapshots, which don’t need the performance of RAID 10 or fast disk. Why buy tier 1 disk for inactive data?
Data Progression software is also an integrated part of our modular and scalable solution, which does not require customers to rip-and-replace their current storage investment just to acquire automated tiered storage as their needs grow. This is perhaps the most important difference between Data Progression and FAST and others. Data Progression is built into the Compellent SAN, just like boot from SAN, snapshots and replication software, and all existing customers need to do is purchase and download a license key.
Whereas other implementations are limiting the technology to a small number of enterprise customers today, we believe an automated tiered storage solution should be able to accommodate all enterprises, from the SMB all the way up to the largest enterprise, without discriminating.
Many vendors including Compellent, Pillar and 3Par support thin provisioning with automated tiered storage. The combination is critical for maximizing storage efficiency and utilization. On the other hand, EMC doesn’t appear to support thin provisioning with FAST. The lack of support on EMC’s part further limits the customer base that can actually use FAST. Compellent’s thin provisioning software, Dynamic Capacity, and Data Progression work together seamlessly. About 2/3 of our customers use Data Progression together with Dynamic Capacity, with installations ranging from 2TB to 1PB or more.
The maturity of Compellent’s automated tiered storage solution also enables customers to easily mix and match popular and emerging drive technologies such as SAS, SATA, FC and SSD in one virtual pool of storage. The tiering is based on rotational speed, so it’s possible to use different spindles of the same drive type—such as 7,200 and 15K RPM of SAS, or 10,000 and 15,000 RPM of FC—in different tiers within the same system. Because the Compellent architecture is also open, we’ll support a range of I/O technologies from FC to FCOE and iSCSI to 10GbE without requiring controller upgrades.
The benefit of a truly dynamic and persistent storage architecture means you can scale automated tiered storage to keep up with changing data requirements. We have customers such as Munder Capital that have simply added an SSD tier for better performance to their existing automated tiered storage system that they’ve been using for years (integrated with thin provisioning, replication and so on).
Data Progression is a technology we’ve worked hard to develop, patent and improve upon since we shipped our first SAN, and we couldn’t be happier with the feedback from customers of all sizes. They tell me how much Compellent’s automated tiered storage has saved them money, both in IT staff time and hardware acquisition costs. Automated tiered storage has relieved the traditional pain points of data management—and revolutionized the storage marketplace. Naturally, I'm very interested to see how end-users of EMC, 3Par and Pillar will use automated tiered storage over the long-term. But until then, I take the imitation is the sincerest form of flattery for Compellent.

Chuck Hollis

Hi, whoever you are.

First, some ground rules. If you work for (or with) a specific vendor, you need to start by disclosing that. You seem to be a Compellent employee, for example, but we shouldn't have to guess.

See that big EMC logo on the top of my web page? No question as to who's paying the bills here!

Second, while I'm OK with competitive jousting on this blog (all part of the fun), it needs to be fact-based, rather than marketing rehash. Lots of happy marketing speak in your response.

Third, if you want to write 1,000 word competitive responses to my posts, I'd suggest you consider starting your *own* blog, rather than use mine.

Now, let's dig into specifics.

You're right, this version of FAST (for the V-Max) doesn't support virtual provisioning. However, fully supported on the Celerra. I'm not sure about the CLARiiON.

Weren't aware if you guys were shipping flash drives yet. Clearly, fully automated storage tiering is far more interesting when we get flash into the mix.

The Celerra is interesting for NAS and iSCSI use cases, because it goes even farther than your concepts around "data progression" and adds dedupe, spindown, archiving and even move-to-cloud as other options. Nothing like taking a good idea and making it into a great idea.

While you're free to position Compellent as a "V-Max alternative", I don't think you'll find many takers. Large enterprises need more than one feature or another -- they need a platform to run their most critical applications, and that's a tough spot to earn.

Now that more vendors are supporting these types of features, the race is on as to who can do the best job -- while doing everything else that customers need!

Thanks for writing

-- Chuck



Great readings.. thought I'd mention something under "The Backdrop" section.. 50% growth is not 5x more information in the next four years (.5 times).

Chuck Hollis


Agreed -- did not check my maths as I should -- thanks!

-- Chuck



I take that back.. 50% growth for 4 years is 5.0625x the current amount. (1.5^4)

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Chuck Hollis

  • Chuck Hollis
    SVP, Oracle Converged Infrastructure Systems

    Chuck now works for Oracle, and is now deeply embroiled in IT infrastructure.

    Previously, he was with VMware for 2 years, and EMC for 18 years before that, most of them great.

    He enjoys speaking to customer and industry audiences about a variety of technology topics, and -- of course -- enjoys blogging.

    Chuck lives in Vero Beach, FL with his wife and four dogs when he's not traveling. In his spare time, Chuck is working on his second career as an aging rock musician.

    Warning: do not ever buy him a drink when there is a piano nearby.

    Note: these are my personal views, and aren't reviewed or approved by my employer.
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