Dell EMC Unity vs. Dell Compellent

Dell EMC Unity vs Dell Compellent
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    Discover all you need to know about Dell’s two enterprise storage packages!

    There’s no escaping the fact that companies in the modern business world rely on data more than ever before. Consequently, then, even small businesses need to think about their data storage solutions. Your enterprise storage solution will impact everything from productivity and collaboration to data security, operating costs and future purchasing decisions. You will likely be working with the infrastructure you buy today for years to come, so it is a good idea to make a choice with the future in mind while also getting the best value for money today.

    The problem is that there are so many different options that knowing where to start can become rather daunting. Finding partners to help you with procurement is generally advisable. But a little information can go a long way.

    Given that Dell is the largest enterprise storage vendor on the market — and one of the most reputable names in the IT sector — it’s never a bad place to start. We will help bring clarity to your research by giving you a rundown of the two big hitters within the Dell lineup — Dell Compellent vs. Dell EMC Unity.

    How Compellent and EMC Came Together in Dell

    Both Dell Compellent and Dell EMC Unity are enterprise storage solutions, which can feel quite confusing to some business owners — after all, why would Dell want to have two products that cater to the same market? The answer is that these products are different and each has its own history and loyal customer base

    Compellent Technologies was founded in 2002, first becoming profitable in 2008 before being bought out by Dell in 2010 for around $960m ($27 per share). The SAN block-based storage system was soon added to the lineup, filling a clear gap in the company’s data storage portfolio.

    EMC was launched way back in 1979 and focused heavily on its enterprise data storage solutions. Dell completed the acquisition of EMC in 2017 in a deal worth in excess of $67bn – confirming its place as one of the biggest IT mergers in history. At the time, EMC’s main offering was the VNX line, which was integrated into the Dell lineup and formed the technological basis for what has become EMC Unity.  

    The similarities in the product ranges has led each to evolve post-merger, benefiting in large part from cross-pollination that has allowed all products now sold under Dell Technologies to expand market-leading capabilities.

    EMC Unity and Compellent are both powered by Unisphere, which focuses on “unified storage management through a simple, flexible, and integrated user experience”. This gives users the chance to adjust the layout and other key features for a customised flavour.

    However, clear differences between the two systems are visible and the products are targeted at contrasting demographics within the same ballpark. Both data storage solutions are treated with a lot of care by Dell and, for the right clients, can help transform the approach to data storage for the better. Ultimately, then, they each have the capability to become major tools for modern companies, and each plays an important role within the Dell family of enterprise storage solutions.

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    Dell Compellent: The Traditional Enterprise Storage Solution

    Compellent is a SAN (Storage Area Network) solution for data storage. This is a very common type of storage for businesses. It is seen as both the premium and traditional approach to storage, and is one with which most business IT teams will have some familiarity.

    Dell Compellent does additionally boast a NAS (Network Attached Storage) option, but this is gradually being phased out, with the SAN options being the backbone of the Compellent offering.

    Dell Compellent has a lot of direct competition from other SAN enterprise storage solutions. However, the Dell product is particularly powerful and offers very competitive pricing per GB. Compellent further stands out in the market because of its block level RAID features and active data tiering based on the frequency with which data is accessed — something that Compellent has been a long-time leading in providing. The system is self-organising, meaning that you don’t need to micromanage those individual RAID groups or tiering protocols.

    The ability to create a mixture of fast SSD (Solid State Drive) storage for the latest and most important data along with slower HDD (Hard Disk Drives) for old data that still needs to be kept on file also lends itself to greater value for money.

    This system offers good versatility in terms of architecture and can incorporate enterprise file sharing. As far as SAN systems are concerned, Dell Compellent offers a virtualised data centre that uses cloud technology to offer a one-stop tool for data management across the entire business. With relatively low upfront costs, this delivers a robust solution at manageable TCO (Total Cost of Ownership).

    Compellent offers a modern touch to a traditional data storage approach, and is one that is preferred by many businesses — of varying sizes — from a range of different sectors.

    Dell EMC Unity: The One-Stop-Shop Solution

    Dell EMC Unity is a mid-range product within the Dell range and boasts fantastic flexibility. This allows it to be tailored to suit the needs of many different users. While Compellent competes against other traditional SAN systems, Unity is Dell’s answer to Nimble, NetApp and PureStorage — all of which also offer multipurpose solutions that work ‘out of the box’. Unity can be configured as a SAN, NAS, used as DAS and purchased in all-flash and hybrid variants.

    Dell EMC Unity is based on the EMC VNX product line, but upgraded to a new generation. The VNX. NAS elements are now fully virtualised, for example, which enables far greater control over the setups and ongoing management, including new installations when extra storage is needed. The storage system is faster, more powerful, and more open to scalability than ever before. In fact, it is shown to perform 3x better than the previous incarnations.

    UnityVSA and UnityVSA Cloud options bring even greater versatility regarding the practical management of enterprise data, ranging across virtually all types of data that could be required by a modern business.

    Dell EMC Unity starts at300/300F 150 drives 2.4 PB storage units and scales up to the 600/600F 1,000 drives 10 PB units. When added to simplicity of installation, user interface, configuration, and management, this is a great option for businesses that want an easier approach than some of the non-Dell competitors.

    Dell EMC Unity vs. Dell Compellent: SAN Stability vs. Flexibility

    Both Dell EMC Unity and Dell Compellent share a number of similar properties. In addition to using the web-based Unisphere management software, which offers an intuitive GUI (Graphical User Interface) meaning users of either system gain easy access to provisioning, troubleshooting and storage control.  

    Each product offers both all-flash and hybrid options. Unisphere also offers native REST API support which makes cross-vendor integration easier than with most software control systems.  

    Although there are similarities between these products, Dell has continually stated that the acquisitions in this field have been a case of expansion rather than overlapping. With this in mind, there is clearly enough reason for Dell to persist with both data storage and management facilities — at least for the foreseeable future.

    Compellent offers efficient storage virtualisation with automated tier servicing. The mix and match of interchanging technologies and dynamic business continuity are key features for SAN stability. The space-efficient snapshots of Compellent offer incredible recovery facilities while the uninterrupted access to data controls puts businesses back in charge of their destiny. It’s reliability and traditional approach is particularly useful for companies that just want new and improved SAN hardware.

    EMC Unity offers a flexible strategy that gives even greater versatility and control over the situation. This is great for businesses wanting to start out small with views to scale, or those that need data storage solutions to evolve alongside their journey.

    In short, then, Compellent is the solution for those wanting a SAN that offers great power and value for money. However, if you need more flexibility, want to spend less effort building your system and need something that will just work, Unity offers greater versatility in use and scaling. The choice between the two products is largely based on the personal needs of the individual business.


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    Rob Townsend

    Rob is a co-founder at Nexstor and has dedicated his career to helping a range of organisations from SME to Enterprise to get ahead of the game when it comes to their compute, storage and data needs.

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