by Brian Beeler

Dell Announces SC4000 Mid-Tier Flash and Hybrid Arrays

Dell Storage has announced the global release of a new lineup of SC4000 enterprise storage arrays engineered to integrate many of the company’s high-end storage technologies at price points within reach of mid-tier enterprise customers. The SC4000 series reflects Dell’s ongoing transition away from distinct Compellent and EqualLogic lines by drawing on both technology portfolios. From the Compellent side, this means intelligent data progression and placement technologies and write-optimized SLC and read-optimized MLC flash integration to optimize costs and performance along with all of the other data services Compellent is known for. EqualLogic contributes the iSCSI software stack. The net result is a fully-featured storage array that firmly targets the midmarket with a powerful, flexible array with an aggressive price point.

Dell Storage SC4020

The first entry in the SC4000 Series is the 2U Dell Storage SC4020, with 24 2.5-inch drives that is offered in all-flash, hybrid, or all-HDD configurations. The SC4000 Series supports existing expansion shelves, with a license for 48 total drives integrated as part of the base package. The SC4000 family supports the SC200 (12x 3.5") and SC220 (24x 2.5") expansion shelves. In total each SC4020 can support up to 120 drives and 413TB per system. Dell isn't offering a SC4000 with controllers and 3.5-inch drives at launch, although it stands to reason that such an offering may be available down the line as they build out this family.

Dell Storage SC4020 configured with two flash tiers, HDDs and SC220 expansion shelf

Integrating Compellent and EqualLogic technologies means that Dell can position the SC4020 as an ideal replication partner for Compellent SC8000 arrays with a centralized management interface across all SC systems. This is a big update for enterprises who have an SC8000 in their environment already with storage needs at remote/branch offices (ROBO). The SC4020 offers all of the deep data services from Compellent with ease of integration into the existing management architecture and Dell Storage Center 6.5.

Central to ROBO or midmarket enterprise IT management is ease of use. The SC4000 comes with Dell Copilot which has been offering support and proactive maintenance on the larger Compellent arrays for years. At its core, Copilot offers ongoing system analysis, strategic planning and performance tuning. Copilot features are required for large enterprise, but to bring features like this to the midmarket is impressive. Given these systems are usually managed by an IT generalist, having access to support professionals to make sure storage is not only not a concern, but is being proactively managed, is a big deal. 

Suresh Jasrasaria demonstrates the new SC4020 array

Another big benefit in the midmarket is interface, or perhaps more accurately, the ability to offer more than just iSCSI. In this case the SC4000 supports Fibre Channel (with FC or iSCSI replication) or iSCSI connectivity. Each controller has a dedicated networking card with either 4 8Gb Fibre ports or 4 10GbE ports. The SC4000 arrays are outfitted with dual controllers, each with an Intel quad-core Ivy Bridge CPU and 512MB (1GB total) of battery protected write cache. The system also features dual hot swap PSUs with power loss protection. For those who need NAS support, the FS8600 NAS head is compatible with the SC4000. 

The SC4000 series will use a perpetual software licensing scheme which means that licenses remain valid even across hardware upgrades. In practice, this means that licenses for the SC4000 series can be used during a transition to SC8000 hardware as disks are moved from one array to the other. While it's more likely that an environment would add an new SC8000 and use the SC4000 elsewhere, the upgrade path is nice to have. 

Turning to performance, in an SLC all flash configuration in 2U, the SC4020 can post over 300,000 random IOPS with sub 5ms latency and 240,000 IOPS with under 1ms latency. In OLTP or mixed workloads the SC4020 can achieve 170,000 IOPS with sub 5ms latency and 120,000 IOPS with sub ms latency. In raw throughput, the SC4020 can sustain a maximum 6.5GB/s sequential read throughput and 2.8GB/s write. Further, one SC4020 array with 24x 900GB 10K hard drives can host up to 10,000 Microsoft Exchange 2013 mailboxes.

Dell believes that they've released a product that will absolutely kill it in the midmarket. With a little hands on time in the Dell Storage lab, we tend to agree. There's really not a system out there now that has the combination of data services, software tool integration, interface flexibility, support and cost structure that the SC4020 brings to bear. A midmarket Compellent was a gaping hole in the Dell Storage portfolio, which has clearly been repaired. For the midmarket enterprise the SC4020 can easily stand alone as the primary storage solution to handle diverse application needs. In a hub and spoke ROBO scenario, the SC4020 can offer ease of use locally, while replicating off to an SC8000 at the main data center. The use cases are there and the market demand is there, in fact Dell made an FC-only SKU of the SC4020 available in the APAC region in May, and promptly sold out of the first couple hundred units they made. With an existing install base of SC8000 owners and the new doors the SC4020 opens on its own, it's hard to envision a scenario where the SC4000 family does anything other than find its way into a few thousand deployments in short order.


The Dell Storage SC4000 Series will be available worldwide during the third quarter of 2014. Systems can be configured with as few as 12 drives and prices start around $25,000.

Dell Storage SC4000 Series

Update: Our Review of the Dell SC4020 array

Discuss This Story

Related News and Reviews