Dell Storage Center OS and Software

Dell Storage Center OS and Software
Dell’s Storage Center OS and software helps you achieve better business results by getting the maximum productivity return from every solid-state drive (SSD) or hard disk drives (HDD) you buy. Storage Center:
  • Guarantees all incoming writes go to your fastest drives at RAID 10 performance levels
  • Redistributes data in the background to simultaneously optimize for performance and cost-savings
  • Responds to growth and changing workloads to ensure your investment continues to pay off over time
With SC Series arrays (including Compellent SC8000), you can flexibly deploy flash, hard drive or hybrid solutions with full confidence, knowing your unique environment is auto-tuned to meet user and application needs. Enjoy dramatic performance improvements throughout the data center with just a small number of SSDs, or install state-of-the-art pure-flash arrays for the price of spinning disk solutions. Fully-virtualized and highly-automated, Storage Center takes the work and guesswork out of provisioning storage, evolving automatically with real-time usage patterns to give you an ongoing competitive advantage.

Explore the enterprise-class Storage Center features in the tabs below.

Data Progression: Automated tiered storage

Based on actual use and application performance requirements, Dell Storage Center Data Progression automatically classifies and migrates data to the optimum tier and RAID level. All new data is written to Tier 1 drives at RAID 10 performance levels, for the most consistent user experience. As the data ages, it is quickly identified and moved to less expensive storage until it becomes more active again. Data is precisely where it’s needed, when it’s needed – the perfect combination of high IOPs and cost-savings.

Previously written pages are converted to RAID 5 (ideal for read performance) on Tier 1, and eventually moved to Tier 2 or 3, depending on their level of read activity. Both steps free up space on Tier 1, so you buy less disk overall. However, unlike other tiering solutions, Data Progression immediately returns these pages to the Tier 1, RAID 10 ‘write layer’ when a new write comes in. Data Progression may be set to run at any interval – or manually run "on demand" – but will always remain a background operation, assigned a lower priority than external IO in order to maintain uninterrupted data flow.

Fully virtualized architecture

You’ll spend less time configuring and managing your arrays while achieving unprecedented levels of automation, efficiency and control thanks to Dell’s fully virtualized Storage Center platform.

With Storage Center, each disk can support multiple RAID levels – there is no need to dedicate or pre-allocate resources for RAID groups. All storage is combined in a single virtual pool by default, and RAID provisioning occurs automatically across the pool, expanding or contracting as needed according to pre-determined policies.

While traditional arrays require RAID levels to be inflexibly pre-configured on separate disk groups, Storage Center presents the performance and capacity of the entire tier to all RAID levels simultaneously. By spreading IO to more disks, higher IOPs are attained, and storage resources are never "held captive" by under-utilized groups.
Fully virtualized architecture
Storage Center virtualization completely eliminates the need for manual data classification or movement, actively responding to usage metadata tracked at an extremely granular level (512KB block size). Released from physical device and location restraints, user-side data constructs such as files and volumes can span multiple tiers, drive types and RAID levels. Only the active or changing blocks within a file are stored at the highest performing locations, ensuring your most expensive disks are put to their best use. When drives are added or removed, data is automatically restriped and re-optimized, simply by repointing the pages in metadata – allowing maximum flexibility, with little to no overhead.

Flash-Optimized Solutions

Dell is once again changing the economics of enterprise storage, now allowing more companies than ever before to experience the business advantages of state-of-the-art SSD performance. With Storage Center, you can afford to put ALL your workloads on flash, turbo-charging application performance without breaking your IT budget.

Designed from the start to support pure SSD or hybrid SSD/HDD solutions, Storage Center includes innovative intelligence to extract the most value from your flash investment. Dell SC Series arrays may be deployed with either a single tier of flash, or in multi-tier flash optimized configurations that deliver- unique attributes of write-intensive SLC and read-intensive MLC drives.

In a multi-tier flash optimized solution, all incoming writes go to write-intensive drives (Tier 1, RAID 10), that guarantee the highest performance and endurance. Data is then converted to read-only, RAID 5, and eventually moves to Tier 2 (read-intensive SSDs). This provides equivalent read performance at a much lower cost while freeing up Tier 1 space for new writes. If the array also includes HDDs, the least-active data is stored on Tier 3, optimized for bulk capacity at industry-leading densities.

Customers can experience dramatic workload improvements throughout the data center with only a small number of SSDs – or deploy an extremely high-performance, high-capacity all-flash solution for the price of a spinning disk solution.

Best of all, Storage Center SSD solutions are the product of over a decade of Dell storage experience and expertise, based on a mature, feature-rich stack, enterprise-class management/monitoring, multi-protocol network support and levels of third-party application integration not found in conventional flash arrays.

Fluid Cache support

SC8000 is the enabling array for Dell’s new Fluid Cache for SAN solution, which combines the ultimate performance of server-side PCIe flash caching with the advanced efficiency, ease-of-use and data protection of a storage network.

Fluid Cache for SAN accelerates applications by using Dell Express Flash PCIe SSDs and Dell Storage Center tiering technologies to move hot data closer to the server. Latency is minimized, and data is safeguarded with a shared cache pool that provides full redundancy in the case of server failure and enables easy scale-out of performance and capacity. Offering unprecedented IO performance for applications such as OLTP and VDI, Fluid Cache and Storage Center solutions improve database response times by as much as 99 percent.
Fluid Cache support
Fluid Cache for SAN is fully integrated in Storage Center management, allowing customers to use the same Enterprise Manager interface to control both the cache cluster and SAN. Additional integrations include new cache-aware Storage Center Snapshots, which offer complete end-to-end data protection coverage. See separate Fluid Cache documentation for additional details.

Dynamic Capacity (thin provisioning)

Built into every Dell Storage SC Series system, thin provisioning delivers efficient storage utilization. Our advanced thin provisioning, called Dynamic Capacity, completely separates storage allocation from utilization, so users can allocate any size volume up front yet only consume physical capacity on write. You can even reclaim capacity that is no longer in use by applications, automatically reduce the space needed for virtual OS volumes, and convert traditional volumes on existing storage to thin-provisioned capacity.
Dynamic Capacity (thin provisioning)

Data Instant Replay: Space-efficient snapshots

For data protection or "thin replication," Data Instant Replays solve the tradeoff issues between snapshot granularity and capacity cost savings. Fully integrated with Data Progression auto-tiering, Replays (Storage Center’s term for snapshots) are yet another example of the benefits of true storage virtualization.

Replays occupy far less space than traditional snapshots and allow for faster recovery times. Customers can therefore specify coverage at any interval, recording thousands of continuous images if desired. This gives administrators the freedom and confidence to test new applications or service packs and make other strategic changes, knowing they can easily roll back individual files, or their entire system, to any previous state.

Unlike less efficient solutions which require full-volume clones to be stored in a new location, Replays simply "freeze" the selected data in place, making those pages read-only, but otherwise allowing normal use to continue. When a new write comes in, it is immediately sent to Tier 1, starting a new version of the associated page which becomes authoritative, along with any remaining Replay pages that have not been altered. At the next Replay, only the changes are indexed and frozen. In this way, multiple full historical snapshots are preserved in unaltered form for future recovery, yet only incremental changes between Replays are written to the storage pool. Capacity use is extremely minimal, and performance remains high.

Replays become even more efficient as Data Progression quickly converts them to read-optimized RAID 5, freeing up space on Tier 1. If their activity level is low enough, Replays (and only Replays) are eventually progressed to lower-cost drives, but as always, individual pages are immediately restored to Tier 1/RAID 10 when new writes occur.

Historical Replays can be mounted by multiple servers, and since they consist entirely of virtual pointers, any size volume can be recovered to any server in less than 10 seconds. This capability also makes it easy to implement cost-saving Boot from SAN and Gold Image strategies where multiple servers share a common set of read-only data, such as application images. The client servers do not require their own copies of the original dataset, writing only their unique changes and additions to the storage pool. Many other arrays do not allow for this thin clone data sharing method. Furthermore, unlike other snapshot solutions, Storage Center Replays remain intact when reconfiguring or migrating LUNs, enabling deployment of high-performance federated solutions.

Remote Instant Replay: Thin replication

An extension of Data Instant Replay, Remote Instant Replay leverages the same space-efficient snapshots to deliver a cost-effective disaster recovery solution between local and remote sites. After initial site synchronization, only incremental changes in data need to be replicated. Thin replication cuts hardware, bandwidth and administration costs. Customers can choose between synchronous or asynchronous modes, and may use Fibre Channel or native IP connections between the local and remote arrays, depending on their existing network infrastructure or other business requirements.


Storage Center’s new Compression feature* lets customers store more data with less hardware, providing as much as a 77 percent reduction in required hard disk capacity and costs – with no negative impact to performance or user experience.

Transparent to applications and workloads, Storage Center Compression is fully integrated with and controlled by the system’s Data Progression algorithms. Standard Data Progression always runs first, optimizing block placement within the array according to real-time access and usage patterns. Compression is then applied only to the "historical inaccessible" Tier 3 data on user-selected volumes or the entire array. Although this historical data can comprise up to 80 percent of overall storage (resulting in huge cost savings when compressed), none of the user interactions with upper-level tiers are affected.

Storage Center customers using Compression can continue to take advantage of other enterprise-class SC features, many of which gain additional value when combined with the new capability. For instance, in Live Volume or Replication pairs, Compression may be configured independently for target and source arrays. This allows the arrays to be either fully mirrored or compressed at different levels, depending on cost-saving policies and methods at different enterprise locations. In another example, since Snapshots can contain both compressed and uncompressed data, a recovery View Volume may be mounted and accessed without rehydrating the entire dataset. Only the pages that are actually read are rehydrated, further demonstrating Dell’s commitment to end-to-end integration and cost-savings.

Live Volume: Dynamic business continuity

For quick disaster recovery, easy storage migrations, or the creation of federated multi-array systems, Storage Center’s Live Volume feature* acts as a storage hypervisor, that allow data to be copied or moved between arrays with no interruption to host access. Storage essentially "follows the application," as migrated volumes automatically map to associated hosts regardless of physical location.
Live Volume: Dynamic business continuity
Data center administrators can use Live Volume for fast on-demand load balancing between Storage Centers or to stretch Microsoft clustered volumes between geographically dispersed locations. Live Volume supports any virtualized server environment, and this functionality is fully integrated into the virtualized Storage Center platform, eliminating the need for additional hardware or server-side agents. SC Series Volume Advisor proactively recommends the best data placement within the environment, and constantly monitors and analyzes all arrays to suggest optimization changes over time, based on built-in best practices or customizable performance and capacity policies.

New synchronous capability keeps Live Volumes 100 percent consistent, allowing them to also be used for both planned and unplanned outages and disaster recovery. With Synchronous Live Volume, a Recovery Point Objective (RPO) of ZERO can be established and met – in other words, ALL your data is now protected. And since server mappings are virtualized, no host-side changes are required to manually restore data access using the secondary array. Recovery Time Objectives (RTO) can be reduced to minutes.

Complementing these additions, Storage Center’s new intelligent Live Volume Managed Replication (LMR) feature replicates data to a third recovery site, enabling a more robust variety of DR plans. LMR is specifically designed to leverage Live Volume’s capabilities. Whenever Storage Center swaps primary and secondary arrays (either manually, for DR, or automatically, in response to changing traffic patterns), the third site array shifts its replication source to the new primary volume – again, ensuring more comprehensive business continuity and data protection.
Data-at-Rest Security

Data-at-Rest Security

As recent security breaches in both government and private sector environments make headlines, organizations of all kinds are focusing on data protection. One of the most promising, growing technologies for safeguarding information is the new generation of self-encrypting drives (SEDs).

These devices offer rock-solid data protection, even in cases where a drive or an entire array is physically stolen or lost. Drives removed from a system are automatically locked, and without their individual encryption keys, they remain 100 percent inaccessible, even if disassembled and placed on a spin stand. And unlike software-based encryption schemes, SED security has zero impact on system or application performance.
Dell SC Series arrays* now support a wide range of SED drives in both HDD and high-performance SSD formats, offering a trusted data-at-rest encryption solution that meets the most stringent compliance requirements, including the critical FIPS 140-2 certification required for sales into secure government data centers. Leading remote key management platforms are supported, allowing large enterprise customers to leverage their existing key management investments.

As always, Dell has found innovative ways to make this leading technology more affordable and practical for customers. While traditional solutions require customers to switch all their drives to SEDs, Dell’s ability to support SED and non-SED drives in the same array lets customers adopt a pay-as-you-go approach to encryption. Secure drives may be deployed only for the volumes that require encryption. Separate page pools for locked and unlocked LUNs within the array provide complete separation and security, allowing for an incremental, cost-effective SED roll-out. Best of all, the new SC 6.5 software lets customers deploy SEDs in their existing Storage Center or previous-generation Compellent arrays, contrasting with other vendors who require a forklift upgrade to an entirely new array.

Storage Center GUI: Intuitive management

Dell Storage Center features a unified, point-and-click interface that cuts administration time and eliminates the need for specialized skills. The intuitive interface automates repetitive, time-consuming tasks so data center staff can focus on other important projects. Complex allocation, configuration and administration functions are easily accomplished with wizards to guide the process. And comprehensive Support Assist capabilities deliver remote, diagnostic and monitoring tools coupled with automated alert and notification services.  

Enterprise Manager: Enterprise storage management

Enterprise Manager simplifies storage resource management by providing comprehensive monitoring and management of all local and remote Dell Storage Center SC Series systems. You can gain instant visibility and control of a multi-terabyte, multilocation environment, streamlining administration and reducing operating costs. Configure and verify remote replication processes, monitor storage capacity and disk utilization in real time, and generate comprehensive storage usage and performance reports — all from a single pane of glass.

Using Enterprise Manager, multiple arrays may be deployed in federated configurations of any size with the SC Series Live Volume and Volume Advisor features. Live Volume offers transparent, non-disruptive volume movement among arrays, allowing the combined capacity and cache of the entire system to be seamlessly utilized for maximum performance and scalability in expanding data centers. SC Series Volume Advisor proactively recommends the best data placement within the environment, constantly monitoring and analyzing all arrays and suggests optimization changes over time, based on built-in best practices or customizable performance and capacity policies. 

Multi-VLAN Tagging

Storage Center’s iSCSI network interface provides segmented, controlled access for multiple VLANs on each port. A single fault domain (failover port grouping) can now support up to 64 VLANs with physical failover protection and full network separation. This capability gives service providers a convenient, cost-effective method to securely host SANs for multiple iSCSI clients on the same array while charging variable fees for different QoS levels. It also benefits large corporations and other organizations who wish to use VLANs to separate departments for internal charge-back, security or administrative purposes.

Storage Center automatically complies with QoS and security policies established in the main network, even when those policies change. Once configured using the included wizard, Storage Center links automatically inherit network VLAN policies, a significant advantage for both ease of administration and avoidance of costly security policy errors. 

Data Center Automation: 3rd-party technology integrations

With aggressive platform integration, ongoing interoperability testing and collaborative design efforts, Dell delivers superior data center automation for industry-leading applications. Storage Center has a vast array of integration points with VMware® to manage storage and virtual machines together, including a vSphere™ plug-in, a vCenter™ SRM adapter and VAAI support. The Storage Center Command Set for Windows PowerShell streamlines system management with an intuitive scripting interface. Replay Manager provides consistent, automated backup and restore for VMware, Microsoft® Exchange, SQL Server® and Hyper-V™ data. These certified and validated platforms ensure seamless interoperability and support. 
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