Dell Technologies World Recap: Storage Edition
March 2020 is when the entire world came to a screeching halt, and the pandemic canceled all in-person functions. Events like Dell Technologies World continued to happen, only virtually. Product and feature launches were carried out like usual, albeit with less fanfare, and the development teams' hard work on those products, readying them for the market, continued. It's in the context of a two-year general absence of in-person contact that makes 2022's Dell Technologies World so great.
After two years of virtual-only events, Dell Technologies World happened in Las Vegas in early May. Keynote speeches by Dell executives offered insight into their vision. Dell highlighted the contributions they are making to the technology world and humanity as a whole. For example, they are a large recycler of ocean plastics, incorporating them into their products and packaging. For this update, I'll focus on the primary storage ecosystem. Products like PowerMax 2500 and 8500, PowerStore 3.0, PowerFlex 4.0, and others were launched. And of course, there was the expo hall, gathering spaces, hands-on labs, and happy hours.
One of the announcements they made regarding the primary storage portfolio was "Project Alpine." Presently, the number of cloud-native primary storage platforms is limited. You have PowerScale/Isilon in GCP and EMC Unity Cloud Edition in VMC on AWS; data protection products have a larger overall representation. Project Alpine's goal is to create a cloud-native version of the primary storage products. In addition, this will provide additional flexibility, allow for systems to be deployed wherever the hyperscalers have facilities, and bring data closer to the end-users while retaining the same management interfaces.
Symmetrix, DMX, VMAX, and PowerMax are household names to anyone in the enterprise storage world. It has been and still is a reliable, flexible, scalable, and performant system. With this year's launch of 2500/8500, the system gets, what I believe is the first major update to the platform since VMAX3. That's not to downplay PowerMax 2000/8000 at all, which introduced NVMe front- and backend, global deduplication, and a mixed mainframe/open-systems array; the new systems build on those achievements. There are many new features to highlight; here are a few key innovations on the new system.
- NVMe over TCP frontend connectivity - NVMe/TCP provides improved performance over iSCSI either in your data center or cloud-adjacent locations like Equinix or Faction. I've written about this previously here. It will also be able to work with Dell's SFSS, which provides something like Fibre Channel zoning for ethernet fabrics.
- Flex RAID - For those of you familiar with Unity's Dynamic Pools or PowerStore, this will look familiar. The parity protection for each block is now disaggregated from the drives themselves. The array will manage sub-block placement, ensuring all parity requirements are met. Also, there are no longer dedicated hot spares in the system. Spare space from each drive is saved to handle online sparing, meaning rebuilds are many-to-many and much faster than traditional single drive rebuilds, and you can take advantage of the performance from all drives in the array.
- Improved data reduction - 4:1 guarantee for open systems, up from 3.5:1 in PowerMax 2000/8000. Additionally, in an industry first, mainframe data can be compressed with a 3:1 guarantee behind it.
- Improved packaging - The arrays are basically half the size they were previously. It's a win for data center managers everywhere.
- SDNAS - A complete overhaul of the eNAS architecture, meaning a tightly integrated software-defined NAS, whose architecture moves away from VNX and into the same code base as Unity and PowerStore.
- Improved security posture - Already a very secure platform deployed in critical environments, PowerMax picks up some additional credentials. It will now work with CloudIQ's telemetry monitoring to look for anomalous behavior and alert for potential cyber-attacks. Multifactor authentication is now supported with RSA SecurID, adding an additional layer of security beyond the traditional password.
- Anytime Upgrades - This provides ongoing data-in-place upgrades as hardware improves. For arrays with large and diverse workloads like those served by PowerMax, making array upgrades as simple as a non-disruptive hardware swap makes everyone's lives easier. Non-disruptive migration (NDM) is good, but this is better.
For more, Dell's Itzik Reich has a good article here. Stay tuned here in the next month or so and we'll have a deeper dive into this platform.
Dell first launched PowerStore at Dell Tech World - Virtual Edition in 2020. Since then, there has been a steady stream of updates to the platform, adding additional functionality with a simple software update. Features like improved performance, NVMe over Fibre Channel and TCP, and multi-appliance PowerStore-X clusters have all been added with a code change. This year, PowerStore 3.0 was launched during Jeff Clarke's keynote. It includes new hardware and a new major family software update. There will be a forthcoming article with additional details in the near future.
Dell's premier software-defined primary storage platform capable of serving capacity to ESX and bare metal, PowerFlex can start small, scale large, and offers up the simplest hardware refreshes available. In addition to scaling ease, it's also a blazing fast platform since all data is spread across the cluster.
- NVMe over TCP - This adds NVMe over TCP as an additional way to gain access to the platform's capacity. The long-time SDC isn't going anywhere but is getting a running mate alongside. A new piece, called the SDT, will reside on a node and act as a target for the host initiators to connect to, much like an iSCSI target acts as a gateway into a storage array today.
- SDNAS - File services are being added to the array, allowing for its performance and capacity to be tapped for your workloads. The plan is to have dedicated nodes running the NAS container. This container will subscribe to the cluster using the PowerFlex SDC, just like any other host today.
Last, Dell announced a partnership with Snowflake. Snowflake provides a public-cloud-based data platform aimed at replacing traditional data warehouses, data marts, and ETL processes. The plan is to simplify the movement of on-prem data into the Snowflake cloud, and also to be able to bring Snowflake's data smarts to your on-prem data.
This is just a sampling of the new features available from Dell's primary storage offerings. There is a lot more to talk about in the next few months as these platforms become generally available. With a smaller storage portfolio than in years past, these updates enrich the offerings on the go-forward roadmap, rather than have more products with narrower feature sets. We are excited to have partnered with Dell's engineering teams on some of these things and look forward to sharing more with you soon.