About a month ago, the Dell community gathered at the Boston Convention Center for Dell Storage Forum 2012. I have just been able to digest knowledge I acquired throughout three days at an incredibly interactive event.  

Dell Storage Forum brings Dell employees, channel partners, and customers together. Based on my interaction with the Dell representatives, I would estimate that most of them were hands-on product engineers. The conference sessions were information rich, as most speakers are either subject matter experts and have written the whitepapers or reference architectures available online at Dell’s website.  They were available after their sessions for further explanations and answering questions. For such a large conference, the interactive environment was refreshing.

The access and interaction between myself and the Dell Product Managers gave me a chance for direct feedback on their programs. They were very interested in what we would like to see in the future, requests for changes and new product ideas, as well as positive feedback on the existing platforms. The Compellent and EqualLogic product teams provided their roadmap, and along with new product announcements, gave attendees reassurance that the Dell Storage group is headed in the right direction. 

I attended the DSF last year in Orlando, Florida.  Since it occurred shortly after the Compellent acquisition, there was a bit of uneasiness surrounding the two teams, Compellent and EqualLogic.  There was a distinct “first day of school” atmosphere, where the new students haven’t really gotten to know each other yet.  The event was great, but you could tell that most of the personnel were just getting to know each other.  This year, things have changed dramatically.  There was a sense of ‘one’ coming from Compellent and EqualLogic teams.  There were no silos in sight.  Each individual is a member of the Dell Storage Team, working on different aspects of the product set.  The change in philosophy has made Dell a strong contender in this market.

One of the coolest parts about talking directly with engineers was sharing how I wish the products could be used. As interested as I was to hear their product features, the engineers were just as intrigued hearing my needs and wants. Engineers such as myself were able to explain their needs for A+B=C.  Positive feedback like this is rewarding on both fronts.

In addition to the technical sessions and training opportunities, there were several new product announcements of the Dell Server and Storage line. There were a few that particularly interested me that I would like to mention. 

Dell EqualLogic PS-M4110 Blade Array was introduced for a fall 2012 release. The storage array is responsible for servers and switching in a single blade chassis. I like to think of it as a ‘data center in a box.’ For customers of Mosaic, Dell EqualLogic blade array will be great to implement for a growing organization’s infrastructure.

EqualLogic Array firmware  v6.0 was also announced. The new release features data protection while replicating, greater data security, and increased efficiency among snapshot borrowing and volume features.  

After being announced in January, it was interesting to talk to the product development team about ‘what’s under the hood’ of the Dell DR-4000 Disk to Disk Backup Appliance at the conference. The de-duplicated back up appliance, as a stand-alone device is a reliable, easy and intuitive approach for the data center. The DR-4000 has the ability to replicate to another DR-4000 appliance.  It allows you to replicate your backup data from the primary datacenter to another site.  After the initial seeding, only the changed blocks will transfer, reducing the bandwidth requirement for replication. For the functionality it provides in a standalone D2D backup appliance, it is a very cost effective solution.

Dell’s Storage Forum in Boston this year was a hands-on, user-friendly environment. Even though the attendance doubled in size from last year, you could never tell by Dell’s consistency to attentiveness. The Dell Storage Forum team put on a great conference, and I recommend that you attend next year in San Jose, CA and I hope to see you there.