Dell seasons PowerMax arrays with dash of FC-NVMe and Optane – but it's not a capacity boost

It's a performance upgrade

Dell EMC has injected FC-NVMe and Optane storage-class memory (SCM) into its high-end PowerMax arrays with the aim of ramping performance.

The updated PowerMax specs are up to 7.5m IOPS, sub-100μs read latency and 1PB effective capacity for the 2000, and up to 15m IOPS, sub-100μs read latency, 350GB/sec and 4PB effective capacity for the 8000. This is a performance upgrade, not a capacity boost.

The arrays are also receiving VMware, Ansible and Kubernetes integrations.

FC-NVMe is the NVMe fabric protocol for storage array access that is implemented using Fibre Channel cabling, running at 32Gbit/s in this case. It is built to provide sub-200μs latency with NVMe flash SSDs – PowerMax already supports NVMe SSDs, but this update provides wider NVMe support.

Updated systems include support for 750GB and 1.5TB dual-port Optane DC 4800X SSDs, which have an NVMe interface. This Optane support was flagged back in December and PowerMax is the first system to ship with these drives.

Gens 1 and 2 PowerMax Two models of the first generation PowerMax array were unveiled in May last year: the 4U 2000 (1.7m random read IOPS, 300μs latency, and 1PB effective capacity); and the rack-level 8000 (up to 10m IOPS, 300μs latency, to 175GB/sec and 4PB effective capacity).

The pair can be scaled up by adding PowerBrick controller/storage units – one to two for the 2000 and one to eight for the 8000. A brick includes an engine (controller) with two PowerMax directors, packaged software, cache, and 24-slot Drive Array Enclosures. The engines use Xeon CPUs including E5-2650 v4 for the 2000 and E5-2697-v4 for the 8000.

PowerMax rival kitmaker Infinidat claims its arrays are faster: a May update to its F6000 array provided up to 2m IOPS and 25GB/sec throughput, with latency typically less than 1ms, down to under 50μs, as measured from the host, in one example. PowerMax with SCM and NVMe-FC has more IOPS and its latency in the same area.

HPE's Primera array puts out 2.3m IOPS and 75GB/sec of data with sub-ms latency. NVMe-oF support is baked into the Primera OS but not yet available. That's more bandwidth than PowerMax but fewer IOPS. Primera is also said to be ready to support dual-port Optane drives and the system is designed to handle the IO load of NVMe-oF and SCM.

PowerMax Operations pre-built modules for RedHat Ansible, available on GitHub, will allow users to create Playbooks for storage provisioning, snapshots and data management workflows for automated operations. Also available on GitHub is a Container Storage Interface (CSI) plug-in for PowerMax that provisions and manages storage for Kubernetes workloads.

A VMware vRealize Orchestrator (vRO) plug-in, available on the VMware Solutions Exchange, allows users to develop automation routines for provisioning, data protection and host operations. These routines can be bought as self-service catalog items on the vRealize Automation platform.

Dell EMC Cloud Storage services provide disaster recovery as a service using AWS, Azure or the the Google Cloud Platform. This supports PowerMax.

There is a Dell Technologies validated design for PowerMax and PowerMax is validated for VMware's Cloud Foundation through Fibre Channel as primary storage. PowerMax with NVMe-FC, SCM and the refreshed software is available now. ®

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