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Compelling Upgrades in Storage Center 4.0?

Compellent hopes to take the guesswork out of storage planning and claims its latest software upgrades do just that -- as well as help cut costs on everything from drives to power and cooling.

In announcing its latest storage area network, or SAN , Storage Center 4.0, the Minnesota-based vendor said today its latest applications let users manage data inside the volume, provide improved thin provisioning for remote storage needs and offer a way that lets systems reclaim unused disk space.

"We're focused on providing a strong total cost of ownership and bringing reductions both in operational areas and in capital expenses when it comes to managing storage," Bob Fine, Compellent's product marketing manager, told InternetNews.com.

"We take a new approach when it comes to managing stored data, as we've provided a way to do it inside the volume so that users don't have to live with the guess they took in resource allocation," Fine said. "Now we let them have the ability to change that allocation when it isn't needed."

The goal, he added, is to make sure that inactive data doesn't take up expensive space on high-end drives.

"Not only are you paying for disk space that's prime cost, you're paying for the power costs that come along with those drives," Fine said, noting that operating costs for hundreds or thousands of drives can increase quickly.

Power and cooling costs average about $50 for each drive, according to Compellent.

One feature upgrade is Fast Track, an automated function that puts active data on the outer tracks of a drive to allow speedier access, and according to Fine, reduce disk costs as fewer high performance drives are necessary.

Fine says traditional storage disk setups put entire data volumes on perimeter tracks -- which means data that isn't needed often consumes expensive disk space.

By putting only data that's in high demand in the perimeter, an enterprise can save on drive costs and boost performance, he said.

[cob:Related_Articles]A second feature, Thin Import, converts data into thin-provision volumes, a capability Compellent claims can reduce disk drive requirements by up to 50 percent and help IT departments reclaim underused storage.

A third enhancement is a free-space recovery tool that helps users regain unused space and typically goes unnoticed in a Windows file server environment.

Once Windows files get deleted from a thin provisioned volume in a SAN, the OS still reports that space as being in use. The new feature lets users assess potential empty storage space on a drive and then reclaim that space.

The fourth upgrade is an application optimizer that adjusts storage performance in relation to the application in use. Users can set the size of data transfers within a SAN to match necessary performance levels on a variety of applications, from databases to e-mail.

The last enhancement is a new controller, the Series 30. Compellent does not require users purchase the new hardware to use the software's latest features.

Fine called this optional component "the brains of the system" and added that "current controllers are compatible with the new features."

Compellent said the latest features and functionality are the reason it's the fastest-growing data-storage company.

The vendor posted 119 percent revenue growth and 107 percent new customer growth in 2007, according to Fine, and 33 percent of revenue comes from midsize customers looking to upgrade from other vendors' modular architectures.

That type of growth, Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Mark Peters told InternetNews.com, is likely tied to the innovative technology the vendor is pushing into its product.

"For 20 years the [storage] focus has been all about effective management," Peters said. "Now it's also about efficient management. The benefit they [Compellent] bring is that they're showing what's possible and it's driving the market."

Peters added, "There's been a lot of wasteful storage management, and there haven't been tools to help."

The analyst added that niche players facing off against major storage companies such as EMC, NetApp, IBM and HP have to keep developing new tools to compete.

"Think of where EMC was back in the 1980s and where they are now. At some stage one of these smaller players could do what they did, and this shows us that potential," Peters said.