NEC has introduced a set of storage arrays that scale smoothly from a terabyte to a petabyte, supporting different hard drive classes in the same enclosure.

The arrays have Fibre Channel front ends, but they use both serial advanced technology attachment and serial small computer system interface hard drives on the back end, allowing users to create tiered storage infrastructures within a single rack. The arrays can also be configured to withstand up to two disk drive failures at a time with RAID 6.

The D-Series storage arrays scale from 219 Gbyte to 1.15 petabyte capacity and from 2 Gbyte to 128 Gbyte of memory. The systems also scale from four to 64 4 Gbit/s Fibre Channel ports, and from three to 1,156 disk drives.

Mike Fisch, an analyst at Clipper Group, said the D-series is unique because it can scale from an array for small and medium enterprises to a fully functional, enterprise-class system.

The arrays come in the following five models:

  • The D1-10, which comes with four Fibre Channel ports, up to 72 SAS and/or SATA hard disk drives and 2GB memory.

  • The D3-10, which comes with 12 Fibre Channel ports, up to 144 SAS and/or SATA hard disk drives and 4GB of memory.

  • The D8-10, which comes with 16 Fibre Channel ports, up to 384 SAS and/or SATA hard disk drives and 32GB of memory.

  • The D8-1020, which is a two-node system that comes with 32 Fibre Channel ports, 768 SAS and/or SATA drives and 64GB of memory.

  • The D8-1040 is a four-node system that features up to 64 Fibre Channel ports, 1,536 SAS and/or SATA drives, and 128GB of memory.

The systems are modular in that an entry-level or midrange D3-10 system that is 3.5 inches high can be upgraded nondisruptively by swapping out its controller for that of a D8-series controller, which can then scale to a high-end, enterprise-class system.

"You can start from under 1TB of capacity and upgrade a thousand-fold nondisruptively to 1.1PB," said Victor Gamaly, a senior product marketing manager for the storage business in NEC. "Part of this technology is derived from our supercomputer business. That's basically the high-speed switches that allow you to do clustering."

The D-series systems come with four power supplies and allow administrators to set the systems to spin-down disk drives not being used to conserve on power. For example, an administrator could manually set disks to shut off at 7 am and turn back on at 11 pm for backups, NEC said.

Because the arrays all use the same management software, an administrator can manage both an enterprise-class system in a datacentre and an entry-level system at a remote office through a single portal, according to Gamaly.

The software also offers multiple data replication techniques, including snapshots, full internal and external synchronous replication for business continuity and synchronous remote data replication for disaster recovery.

"From one web-client GUI interface, you can create LUNs, delete LUNS, perform backups, create tiers of storage and decide which volumes are for snapshots and which volumes are for full data copies," Gamaly said.

The D-Series arrays mirror cached data for business continuity. Gamaly said the systems create four sets if mirrored cache, so if one mirror fails another takes over dynamically. "So you're still writing at electronic speeds versus writing at electromechanical speeds [on disk drives]," he said.

The D1-10 starts at $15,000 (£7,500) and the D3-10 starts at $26,000 (£13,000). Both are currently available. Prices for the D8-Series range from $43,000 (£21,500) to $153,000 (£76,500). The D8 series will be available at the end of summer, NEC said.