EMC overhauls its architecture with DMX

EMC claims to be revolutionising the storage industry with the introduction of its DMX design, which shuns the traditional shared bus or switch architecture in favour of a matrix design.

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By  Matthew Southwell Published  February 25, 2003

|~||~||~|EMC claims to be revolutionising the storage industry with the introduction of its Symmetrix Direct Matrix Architecture (DMX). Shunning the traditional shared bus or switch architecture in favour of a matrix design, the solution promises to remove contention and latency issues while delivering a more cost effective and reliable storage architecture.

“In the past, everything went through a shared bus, which was fine until it slowed down. Our rivals tried to solve [the problem] with a shared switch, but this meant you just had a busy switch rather than a busy bus… DMX is different — it is a dedicated point-to-point highway [for data] and is a totally different mechanism for building a storage array,” says Chuck Hollis, vice president of storage platforms marketing at EMC.

Instead of a switch or bus based architecture, DMX comprises up to 128 point-to-point connections that directly link each of the front end channel directors to every region of the global cache memory to each back end disk director. Each dedicated connection is capable of transporting data at 500 M/bytes/s, which results in a total data path bandwidth of 64 G/bytes/s and a total aggregate data path and messaging bandwidth of 72 G/bytes/s.

“DMX has 4.4 times the aggregate bandwidth, between five and ten times the cache bandwidth and nine times the CPU power of our nearest competitor,” comments Hollis.

“DMX is the result of the largest R&D effort we have ever undertaken at EMC… and the result is the industry’s first high end modular array,” adds Mark Lewis, executive vice president of new ventures and chief technology officer of EMC.

The Symmetrix DMX comes in three main models, ranging from the rack mounted high end Symmetrix DMX800 to the Symmetrix DMX2000, which also comes in an ultra performance model for performance hungry customers.

“EMC claims that this [the P model DMX2000] is a screamer, and they believe they can recapture share in the ultra performance segment of the market [with it],” says Enterprise Storage Group analyst, Steve Kenniston.

The Data Matrix Architecture, which Hollis says is the vendor’s first totally new architecture since 1990, has already been well received by the traditionally sceptical analyst community. For instance, Meta Group senior research analyst, Sean Derrington, believes that DMX puts EMC at least two years ahead of rivals IBM, HP and HDS.

“DMX significantly distances EMC from its competition, which will not be able to leapfrog the Symmetrix DMX in hardware ‘specsmanship’ through 2005,” he says.
While superior architecture will help distance EMC from its rivals and help make the ‘old technology’ argument frequently levelled at the vendor redundant, issues such as price still remain. Although Lewis argues that the ‘e’ in EMC no longer stands for expensive, list prices for DMX begin at US$409,000 and grow to US$2.5 million, depending on a user’s configuration.

Local pricing for the new architecture will reflect international rates and Mohammed Amin, regional manager of EMC Middle East, confirms that the vendor will, initially, be taking DMX to its installed base and the region’s high value verticals.

“Symmetrix DMX systems directly address the business needs of EMC’s first and strongest customers base — larger enterprises from the telecom, banking and energy sectors — so we will be initially targeting those companies and our installed base,” he explains.

Although no sales forecasts were available at the time of going to press, Amin says the vendor should have its first local customers next month. He is also confident that demand across the region will be high due to the growing investment in storage within the Middle East. ||**||

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