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Dell EMC SC Series – Product Brief

Last updated December 4th, 2019 for end of year updates. Concise 5-page overview of the Dell EMC SC Series. Product Brief includes EvaluScale Reviewing Methodology. Download the free Product Brief now!


The Dell EMC SC Series is a block storage system aimed at the mid-tier enterprise market and was formerly called the Compellent family. The models include the SC9000, SC7020, SC5020 (and F models as all flash) and the SCv3000 as a family targeted at the lowest cost entry market. The architecture of the SC systems is that data can be automatically stored, moved, exported, or imported based on the intelligence in the SC system. The advanced features of the SC system are centered on managing and moving data to optimize the storage.

The Dell EMC Storage Center is a dual controller design with redundant components that allow for failover in the case of failure of a controller and continued operation in the case of failure of other components. The dual controller system uses communication through switches to detect failure in the paired controller and handle the failover. Physical disks are virtualized with blocks to be stored or retrieved managed across the disks in virtual volumes. Using the indirection with the block locations not tied to specific disks prior to storing allows for the features such as automated tiering, use of all physical resources, and redistribution of data to avoid hotspots to be implemented. The virtualized architecture with blocks being handled independently also gives flexibility in handling of the RAID protection and the ability to do wide striping allowing for more simultaneous disk access.
Dell EMC supports multiple types of SSDs as separate tiers of storage with migration between the tiers handled by the standard Data Progression software. 3D NAND flash devices are supported with up to 15TB capacity.
Common management is used across all SC models with Unisphere for SC, which is an HTML5 web GUI.
The cache management allows for multiple threads to access cache with read-ahead algorithm for read caching of data in system memory and a separate write cache mirrored across the controllers. The write cache is battery backed to maintain data in the case of a failure. I/O operations are monitored and optimized for performance by merging contiguous block requests into a single request to minimize physical disk revolutions, sorting I/O request to minimize seek operations, and deep-tagged command queuing for multiple outstanding I/O requests to disks.


The Dell EMC Storage Center systems are block storage devices targeted for environments that have performance and advanced feature requirements typically in the mid-tier enterprise. Any application that requires block storage can use the SC system. NAS functionality is provided with an add-on appliance, the Dell FS8600, which provides a single user interface for both block and file.

  • Characteristics
    • Performance – The SC systems are dual controller, active-active systems, which should have good performance. Performance data for select models is available with SPC-1 benchmark data.
    • Availability – The system is fully redundant with no single point of failure. The controller has an automated failover process. Active-active stretched clusters are supported between any of the SC systems. Live Volume is an additional software feature that provides stretched clusters at metro distances.
    • Replication for BC/DR – Asynchronous and synchronous remote replication is available for BC/DR volume usages. SC systems can replicate to or from EqualLogic systems.
  • Applications
    • The Storage Center is targeted at applications that use block I/O for those applications. The FS8600 NAS is used for file access.
    • The base set of included feature such as snapshot and remote replication are expected with tier 1 applications. The Dell system is integrated with VSS for Windows and vSphere for VMware environments.
  • System environments
    • The Storage Center is a block storage system accessed using Fibre Channel, SAS, and iSCSI with standard drivers on host systems.
  • Deployment and Administration
    • The SC system is known as an easy to install and easy to administer system. The SCv3000 is self-installable, while other models require professional services from the reseller or Dell EMC.
    • CloudIQ for monitoring and reporting using telemetry data to SaaS

Evaluator Group EvaluScale: Dell EMC SC – SAN Storage

Evaluator Group product review methodology “EvaluScale” assesses each product within a specific technology area.  The definitions of the criteria and explanations of how products are reviewed can be found in the  Evaluator Series Evaluation Guide. Download the product brief now to view the Evaluscale for this product.

Evaluator Group Opinion: Differentiating elements for Dell EMC Storage Center

Dell EMC SC is a traditional SAN storage system that supports multiple tiers of attached storage. The system also has an add-on NAS controller for the file serving function where the management has been centralized. The SC system is a mature product that has had hardware upgrades released. Software added since 2014 included deduplication, compression, QoS at the LUN level, and further extension of Live Volume. The system has many advanced functions including the Live Volume feature for business continuity and movement of virtual machines.

The SC is not a scale-out system, which means for increasing performance in parallel with capacity, a new controller pair must be installed. Federation of nodes is possible, which allows common management and the ability to migrate data between systems. Other competitive systems have implemented scale-out functionality for a more measured growth. Evaluator Group believes the maturity of the system and the features provide a solid storage system. However, the combination of EMC and Dell probably reinforces the lack of additional development of features that has been evident other than processor updates and devices supported. We do believe the SC systems will continue to be offered and supported, even integrated into Dell EMC management frameworks. The lack of scale-out is one limitation that must the managed by the customer.

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