For quite some time, I’ve been evaluating storage solutions for my data center. If you’ve read my storage articles with any regularity, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of EqualLogic and have been looking at the marketplace in search of the best solution. A while back, I indicated that my areas of priority lie in cost, flexibility, expandability, and high availability. Cost is a huge factor for me in this project. Regardless of the other benefits provided by a shared storage solution, if I can’t afford it, well… I can’t afford it.

Quite frankly, I’ve avoided some of the big name players in the storage world — including NetApp and EMC — simply due to cost. Now, to be fair, I did give these vendors a glance before deciding that cost was going to be a problem. With the release of the EMC AX4, however, the game has changed. The EMC AX4 started shipping this week and replaces EMC’s AX150 and CX300 arrays. I met with an EMC representative this week to discuss the AX4 and its viability for my organization.

The AX4 is aimed squarely at small and mid-sized organizations and for organizations undertaking virtualization projects. With iSCSI and Fibre Channel connectivity options, the AX4 can work easily in most data centers and fulfill most workloads. Through the use of up to four expansion chassis and 1TB SATA drives, an AX4 solution scales to up to 60TB, although 400GB SAS drives are also an option, although total capacity tops out at 24TB in this configuration.

The AX4 also includes some of EMC’s higher end capabilities, but in a more limited way unless you pay for upgrades. For example, the AX4 out of the box supports snapshots, but only up to 16 per system. In order to enhance this capability, you need to upgrade to Navisphere Manager (the AX4 ships with Navisphere Express) and add the full SnapView product. The AX4 will support Navisphere Manager in a couple of months.

Coming from a small/midsized environment, from what I’ve seen so far, I’m very impressed with the AX4. On the pricing side, it beats every other solution I’ve looked at thus far, which is simply amazing coming from EMC. That said, the other solutions I’ve considered include all of the advanced feature licensing that will result in additional fees on the AX4. I’ll report back once I’ve finalized a possible configuration with all of the fixings.

My staff and I will be looking carefully at the AX4 over the next couple of weeks. As I get more information, I’ll keep you up to date on developments and thoughts.