SAN comparison Equallogic PS4000X versus EMC NX4

jpletcher1 used Ask the Experts™
We are in the process of upgrading our current san, and these are two that we have narrowed it down to.  I was just wondering if anyone had any suggestions or insight on these two options and which one might be a better choice for an entry level SMB san solution.
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The PS4000X is a pure SAN (it only does iSCSI over Ethernet) while the NX4 is a 'unified' system, and has the potential to replace not only your existing SAN but also your NAS/file servers as you can host shares on it. The NX4 also supports fibre channel if you ever wanted to move in that direction.

Other than the hardware differences, the management interface is where you spend 99% of your time and of the two products I would go for the Equallogic. EMC has taken its mid-90's interface (and thinking) and sqaushed it into a new system so its awkward to do stuff that should be easy.

If you could, I would go for a NetApp, one of the smaller FAS2020 or FAS2040 models. THese will gove you everything that your current 2 choices give, but also has ASIS (deduplicaton) meaning you save if you deploy virtual machines or many files with similar data (think Word and Powerpoint document metadata etc). THese saving alone can cancel out the slightly higher cost of the product, and the management interface is acutally really good.
Paul SolovyovskySenior IT Advisor
Top Expert 2008
I would concur on giving the Netapp a try.  Self service restores by the users are great, haven't had to restore from tape for installed customer for a long time due to this feature. Supports CIFS, iSCSI, FC in one box.
As already mentioned, the EqualLogic box is iSCSI only - so good for providing block storage for servers. It's disk efficiency is average to poor (that is; the useable space available from a given number of disks), but it does some pretty cool stuff around load balancing as the environment grows. Growth is also its Achilles Heel - you cannot just add a new shelf of disks. You have to purchase an entire new array (with storage controllers and so on) and add that in, so it costs more.

The EMC NX4 expands to 60 disks without disruption. As already mentioned, it supports both block storage and file sharing protocols. Disk space efficeincy is good and performance is excellent. Stability and reliability is best in class. Its an all in one box that does everything you need.

I have a personal preference for EMC and NetApp kit - but with Dell v. EMC, I'd go EMC every time.
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One thing I notice is that the Equallogic has 16 disks and the EMC has 12, so from that perspecitve wouldn't the Equallogic provide much more disk I/O?  That is a concern I have going in.  Right now we have an older Equallogic with SATA drives, and we are at times approaching the I/O limits during backups.  I know SAS is faster than SATA, but just thought having an additional 4 drives with the Equallogic might be nice.  Then again I guess we can always get an additional tray for the EMC unit too.  
In terms of throughput (I/Os Per Second or IOPS) 10K rpm SAS drives are 50% faster than SATA, and 15K SAS drives are 125% faster, so you'd need 18 drives in the EqualLogic box to equal the EMC's performance. You'd need 27 SATA drives to equal the performance of 12 15K SAS drives.

SAS and SATA drives have very similar performance for bandwidth (MB/sec). You should be able to achieve 80 - 100MB/sec out of the EqualLogic box before you hit iSCSI's limits. The NX4 will provide similar performance unless you use Fibre Channel connectivity, in which case the bandwidth constraint of the connectivity method is effectively removed (4Gb Fibre Channel will hit 400MB/sec no sweat), and your backup performance will be limited by other factors such as server performance. If you can move the backup bottleneck to the tape drive, you're in backup nirvana.


Thanks for all the input guys.  It was very helpful.
Thanks! Glad I could help.

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