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EMC VMAX 10K, Looks Like High-End Storage Systems Are Still Alive | Part 3

EMC also announced the release of a new version of their Enginuity storage software

This is the third in a multi-part series of posts (read first post here and second post here) looking at what else EMC announced today in addition to an enhanced VMAX 10K and dispelling the myth that large storage arrays are dead (or at least for now).

In addition to the VMAX 10K specific updates, EMC also announced the release of a new version of their Enginuity storage software (firmware, storage operating system) version 1578. Enginuity 1578 is support across all VMAX platforms and features the following:

  • Replication enhancements include TimeFinder clone refresh, restore and four site SRDF for the VMAX 10K, along with think or thin support. This capability enables functionality across VMAX 10K, 40K or 20K using synchronous or asynchronous and extends earlier 3 site to 4 site and mix modes. Note that larger VMAX systems had the extended replication feature support with VMAX 10K now on par with those. Note that the VMAX can be enhanced with VPLEX in front of storage systems (local or wide area, in region HA and out of region DR) and RecoverPoint behind the systems supporting bi-synchronous (two-way), synchronous and asynchronous data protection (CDP, replication, snapshots).
  • Unisphere for VMAX 1.5 manages DMX along with VMware VAAI UNMAP and space reclamation, block zero and hardware clone enhancements, IPV6, Microsoft Server 2012 support and VFCache 1.5.
  • Support for mix of 2.5 inch and 3.5 inch DAEs (disk array enclosures) along with new SAS drive support (high-performance and high-capacity, and various flash-based SSD or EFD).
  • The addition of a fourth dynamic tier within FAST for supporting third-party virtualized storage, along with compression of in-active, cold or stale data (manual or automatic) with 2 to 1 data footprint reduction (DFR) ratio. Note that EMC was one of early vendors to put compression into its storage systems on a block LUN basis in the CLARiiON (now VNX) along with NetApp and IBM (via their Storwize acquisition). The new fourth tier also means that third-party storage does not have to be the lowest tier in terms of performance or functionality.
  • Federated Tiered Storage (FTS) is now available on all EMC block storage systems including those with third-party storage attached in virtualization mode (e.g. VMAX). In addition to supporting tiering across its own products, and those of other vendors that have been virtualized when attached to a VMAX, ANSI T10 Data Integrity Field (DIF) is also supported. Read more about T10 DIF here, and here.
  • Front-end performance enhancements with host I/O limits (Quality of Service or QoS) for multi tenant and cloud environments to balance or prioritize IO across ports and users. This feature can balance based on thresholds for IOPS, bandwidth or both from the VMAX. Note that this feature is independent of any operating system based tool, utility, pathing driver or feature such as VMware DRS and Storage I/O control. Storage groups are created and mapped to specific host ports on the VMAX with the QoS performance thresholds applied to meet specific service level requirements or objectives.

For discussion (or entertainment) purpose, how about the question of if Enginuity qualifies or can be considered as a storage hypervisors (or storage virtualization or virtual storage)? After all, the VMAX is now capable of having third-party storage from other vendors attached to it, something that HDS has done for many years now. For those who feel a storage hypervisor, virtual storage or storage virtualization requires software running on Intel or other commodity based processors, guess what the VMAX uses for CPU processors (granted, you can't simply download Enginuity software and run on a Dell, HP, IBM, Oracle or SuperMicro server).

I am guessing some of EMC competitors and their surrogates or others who like to play the storage hypervisor card game will be quick to tell you it is not based on various reasons or product comparisons, however you be the judge.


Back to the question of if, traditional high-end storage arrays are dead or dying (from part one in this series).

IMHO as mentioned not yet.

Granted like other technologies that have been declared dead or dying yet still in use (technology zombies), they continue to be enhanced, finding new customers, or existing customers using them in new ways, their roles are evolving, this still alive.

For some environments as has been the case over the past decade or so, there will be a continued migration from large legacy enterprise class storage systems to midrange or modular storage arrays with a mix of SSD and HDD. Thus, watch out for having a death grip not letting go of the past, while being careful about flying blind into the future. Do not be scared, be ready, do your homework with clouds, virtualization and traditional physical resources.

Likewise, there will be the continued migration for some from traditional mid-range class storage arrays to all flash-based appliances. Yet others will continue to leverage all the above in different roles aligned to where their specific features best serve the applications and needs of an organization.

In the case of high-end storage systems such as EMC VMAX (aka formerly known as DMX and Symmetrix before that) based on its Enginuity software, the hardware platforms will continue to evolve as will the software functionality. This means that these systems will evolve to handling more workloads, as well as moving into new environments from service providers to mid-range organizations where the systems were before out of their reach.

Smaller environments have grown larger as have their needs for storage systems while higher end solutions have scaled down to meet needs in different markets. What this means is a convergence of where smaller environments have bigger data storage needs and can afford the capabilities of scaled down or Right-sized storage systems such as the VMAX 10K.

Thus while some of the high-end systems may fade away faster than others, for those that continue to evolve being able to move into different adjacent markets or usage scenarios, they will be around for some time, at least in some environments.

Avoid confusing what is new and cool falling under industry adoption vs. what is productive and practical for customer deployment. Systems like the VMAX 10K are not for all environments or applications; however, for those who are open to exploring alternative solutions and approaches, it could open new opportunities.

If there is a high-end storage system platform (e.g. Enginuity) that continues to evolve, re-invent itself in terms of moving into or finding new uses and markets the EMC VMAX would be at or near the top of such list. For the other vendors of high-end storage system that are also evolving, you can have an Atta boy or Atta girl as well to make you feel better, loved and not left out or off of such list. ;)

Ok, nuff said for now.

Disclosure: EMC is not a StorageIO client; however, they have been in the past directly and via acquisitions that they have done. I am however a customer of EMC via my Iomega IX4 NAS (I never did get the IX2 that I supposedly won at EMCworld ;) ) that I bought on Amazon.com and indirectly via VMware products that I have, oh, and they did sent me a copy of the new book Human Face of Big Data (read more here).

Cheers gs

Greg Schulz - Author Cloud and Virtual Data Storage Networking (CRC Press, 2011), The Green and Virtual Data Center (CRC Press, 2009), and Resilient Storage Networks (Elsevier, 2004)

twitter @storageio

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More Stories By Greg Schulz

Greg Schulz is founder of the Server and StorageIO (StorageIO) Group, an IT industry analyst and consultancy firm. Greg has worked with various server operating systems along with storage and networking software tools, hardware and services. Greg has worked as a programmer, systems administrator, disaster recovery consultant, and storage and capacity planner for various IT organizations. He has worked for various vendors before joining an industry analyst firm and later forming StorageIO.

In addition to his analyst and consulting research duties, Schulz has published over a thousand articles, tips, reports and white papers and is a sought after popular speaker at events around the world. Greg is also author of the books Resilient Storage Network (Elsevier) and The Green and Virtual Data Center (CRC). His blog is at www.storageioblog.com and he can also be found on twitter @storageio.

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