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EMC gives up the goods at storage shindig: VMAX3 speeds, feeds

What's it all about, Alfie?

Redefine

EMC's been keeping quiet on the whole "how fast can this baby go" front when it comes to the VMAX3 range.

But the storage vendor used its megalaunch – with its "Redefine Possible" tagline and futuristic look – to break its silence. So what's under the hood?

EMC has extended VMAX to run more and different workloads. Each of “Gen 2” VMAX's models was treated to a controller refresh. The Enginuity operating system has been rebranded HYPERMAX OS, and being made capable of running more system software applications.

Some system compute has gone to the array but it is not being positioned as a general converged compute and storage system.

The new models, the 100K, 200K and 400K, can have 2, 4 and 8 dual-controller engines respectively.

  • 100K - Xeon E5-2620-v2 2.1GHz 6-core; 24 cores/engine and 48 cores max,
  • 200K - Xeon E5-2650-v2 2.6GHz 8-core; 32 cores/engine and 128 cores max,
  • 400K - Xeon E5-2687-v2 2.7GHz 12-core; 48 cores/engine and 384 cores max.

Each engine has a Dynamic Virtual Matrix dual 56Gbit/s InfiniBand interconnect.

Redefine

EMC Redefine theme at MegaLaunch

The 100K can have two DAEs (Drive Array Enclosures, the 200K four but only two if 2.5” and 3.5” drives are mixed. The 400K can have eight DAEs whether mixed drives or not.

The TwinStrata acquisition is clearly about bolting a public cloud storage backend on VMAX. Perhaps that potential for offloading bulk, low-access rate data explains the otherwise curious lack of any significant capacity increase for VMAX:

  • 10K maximum usable capacity is 1.5PB while the new 100K's is 496TB
  • The 20K's usable limit is 2PB; the 200K's is 2.04PB
  • The 40K's top usable capacity is 4PB; the 400K's is 3.97PB

Yet disk drive counts have increased at at the mid-range and top end. If we look at the drive counts, 2.5" drives first:

  • The 10K tops out at 1,560 x 2.5" drives; the 100K at 1,440
  • The 20K could have up to 2,400 x 2.5" drives; the 200K can have up to 2,880
  • The 40K supports up to 3,200 x 2.5" drives; the 400K a massive 5,760
  • The 10/20 and 40K support up to 1TB 2.5" drives; the VMAX3 models support up to 1.2TB drives, which is not much of an increase

Quite a lot of raw capacity is used up to produce the usable capacity numbers. The 400K's theoretical raw capacity of 5,760 drives, using 1.2TB drives, is 6.912PB. Yet the maximum usable capacity, according to the datasheet we have seen, is 3.97PB.

Turning to 3.5" drives, the largest capacity is 4TB as before, even though 6TB drives are becoming available. The drive counts and raw capacity numbers for old and new VMAX models are:

  • The 10K tops out at 2,400 as does the 20K and 40K, giving a 9.6PB raw capacity, with 3TB usable
  • The 100K can have 1,440 drives
  • The 200K can have 2,880
  • The 400K can have 5,570

Again, drive count increases and, again a lot of disk drive capacity is used up moving from raw capacity to usable capacity.

VMAX3 systems have twice the number of 16 Gbit/s full line-rate ports to double throughput compared to the previous VMAX generation.

Jeremy Burton

Jeremy Burton, EMC president for products and marketing

What we didn’t hear about was any VMware VVOL support, VVOLs being VMware’s virtual storage containers for virtual machines. EMC’s Jeremy Burton, president for products and marketing, said the VMware schedule is for VVOLs to come in the first quarter of next year, with VMAX and XtremIO VVOL support in the following quarter, also ScaleIO and VNX but not Isilon, it not being a transaction-oriented system. ViPR, EMC’s overall storage resource management software product, will also support VVOLs.

VMAX has become a much more capable array. It should be easier to manage and could simplify a customers data protection arrangements with the direct link to Data Domain arrays. Yet ViPR is also getting stronger and it has its own block storage capability, although nowhere near as performant as VMAX, being oriented towards commodity, relatively dumb arrays.

In theory it looks as if customers could move towards interacting with VMAX more and more through ViPR in the future.

There were several other parts to this launch-fest.

Megalaunch tidbits

  • ViPR 2.0 and ViPR SRM are now available
  • EMC's Elastic Cloud Storage (ECS) appliance, which uses ViPR 2.0, is now available with the first 3PB system going to the Vatican Library. It will have a file capability added to it as well as flash. More Pivotal integration is coming
  • Stifel Nicolaus MD Aaron Rakers notes Isilon will introduce CloudPools next year which will likely involve TwinStrata cloud gateway functionality to move data to the public cloud, such as AWS and Azure. A cloud pool will be a single filesystem embracing geo-distributed data centres and the public cloud
  • Brocade has announced 16Gbit/s Fibre Channel support for VMAX3 and XtremIO. EMC resells Brocade HBAs and switches as Connectrix-branded products.
  • VCE has announced it will will offer Vblock Systems with Isilon storage for Hadoop analytics and XtremIO for VDI (Vblock Systems for Extreme Applications.). It will also integrate and support Isilon and XtremIO as options for new and existing Vblock Systems. Vblock Systems’ technology extensions deliver native Hadoop (HDFS) integration, with the ability to support multiple Hadoop distributions and versions

The Direct Protect data protection route between VMAX and Data Domain is only the beginning. It uses changed block tracking and dedupes them.We can assume it will be extended to other EMC storage arrays, such as for example, VNX, Isilon and XtremIO. With it backup software becomes a manager, not a mover. The array moves the data, and media servers have less of a role, if they have one at all, in future.

VCE Vblock Systems technology extension for Isilon is expected to be orderable in Q3 2014 and its technology extension for XtremIO should be orderable in Q4 2014.

Overall this launch demonstrated the breadth and depth of EMC’s storage portfolio. The only obvious hole is for so-called hyper-converged systems like those from Nutanix, Simplivity and NIMBOXX. However Project Mystic, according to Burton, will fill that cavity, using VMware vSphere and VSAN software, EMC storage hardware (not ScaleIO) and, possibly, Brocade networking. The target market are SMB and departments in enterprises, and sub-1,000 VDI opportunities.

It’s not a traditional EMC market sweet spot and work is being done on it. Any product has to be inexpensive and simple to use. Maybe we'll see an EMC MysticPod, a template for VARs to build to, like the Cisco/NetApp Flexpod. The Vulture expects EMC to crack that nut and a hyper-converged box to come sailing down the Mystic River ®

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