Dell PowerStore 3.0 First Impressions Review
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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 simple software updates. Improved performance, NVMe over Fibre Channel and TCP, and multi-appliance PowerStore-X clusters are all features that Dell added with a code change. This year, PowerStore 3.0 was launched during Jeff Clarke's keynote at Dell Tech World in May 2022. It includes new hardware and a new major family software update. I'll highlight the things I believe make this a great release.
You can now get improved performance in the same-sized package. You can update version one hardware to version two hardware via a data-in-place upgrade (non-disruptive controller swap) either through a purchase or through the Anytime Upgrade package. The DIP upgrade will be available a few months after GA status; it will not be available immediately. Additionally, the 7000 does not have a 7200 equivalent in the new lineup. Its upgrade paths are a 9000 or 9200.
NVMe expansion shelves
Gone are the SAS-attached shelves in the previous models. The NVMe DAEs lose a drive slot but gain access to the 15TB NVMe drives, making for a significant amount of scale-up capacity capability. Additionally, if you haven't added SAS shelves to your v1 array, you can swap the ports and get NVMe shelves!
Two ports per node or four per appliance provide a lot of bandwidth for NVMe over TCP, file or iSCSI protocols.
PowerStore 500T Scale-up
The baby array of the bunch gains the ability to add up to three NVMe trays, just like its larger siblings. For customers whose performance needs are met by the 500T, it becomes the perfect standalone array or as part of a cluster of heterogeneous PowerStore arrays.
This has become a frequent ask by customers of all sizes. No company wants to be in the headlines because data was compromised. FIPS certification means the cryptographic modules in the device (hardware or software) have undergone validation by an accredited lab that submits the results to NIST. They ensure the encrypted modules meet specific security requirements and certify the platform. The PowerStore OS code was designed to be secure and ready for FIPS certification. The holdup has been the NVRAM that the array puts in the base enclosure's last two or four slots. What if you have an existing system but still want FIPS certification? Don't worry. Dell has you covered. There is a process to non-disruptively swap the NVRAM drives for certified versions.
Attackers are moving beyond simple password stealing and have been known to attack the system's base, the BIOS. If attackers can install a corrupted BIOS, they get incredibly low-level access to the system and would have visibility into almost everything happening in the box. Taking a page from their PowerEdge server book, the new PowerStore models include an immutable encryption key used to validate the BIOS image before booting the system. This establishes the initial root of trust from which the rest of the system operates.
External key management
PowerStore has utilized a secure internal key manager for controlling the self-encrypting drives' keys. With PowerStoreOS 3.0, it can now work with IBM's GKLM, Thales CipherTrust and Dell's CloudLink. While internal key management has protected data in the case of drives falling off a truck, external key managers protect the data in the event an array grows legs and walks away.
Asynchronous NAS replication
If you're reading this, there is a good chance you know why this is important. Most customers that have more than one site, and want to deploy NAS on PowerStore, want the availability to have data automatically replicated for disaster recovery purposes. NAS replication was a noticeably missing feature that precluded deployment in many scenarios. All of that is now in the past with the release of PowerStore 3.0. NAS replication behaves the same as the already-existing block replication.
File-level retention (WORM)
PowerStore will now allow creating file systems with retention capabilities, including compliance mode (SEC 17a-4 compliant). When creating file systems, you can specify your required retention level, Enterprise or Compliance, along with your desired retention periods.
Lastly, you can set up auto-locking of files to happen at a particular time after creation.
PowerStore now supports event publishing to external receivers. Things like ArcSight or Varonis will get notified when file activity occurs so they can track, analyze and alarm on malicious access patterns.
Our customers are looking for ways to improve their resilience. Some have active or hot standby sites across town. Others implement an additional level of redundancy within their data center. For over a decade, Dell's VPLEX has offered this for heterogeneous arrays. More recently, VMAX3, AFA and PowerMax can do it natively within the family. Providing active/active zero RPO/RTO metro replication for VMware environments without MetroNode or VPLEX in the picture, MetroVolume allows VMware to tolerate a complete array failure without disruption. Metro replication doubles the cost of storage for the protected applications, but this is likely cheaper than the cost of downtime, particularly when factoring customer reputation into the outage cost. See a demonstration of this new functionality.
VMware File Systems
PowerStore 3.0 includes a new option for sites using VMware over NFS when creating a new file system, appropriately named VMware File System. Only able to be exported via NFS, it auto-tunes the file system for running virtual machines efficiently.
Additionally, you get the option to adjust the block size to something closely matching expected workloads residing on the file system.
To call it a full-featured release does not do it justice. Dell's engineering teams have been working toward this day since the launch of the array two years ago. Many of our customers, particularly those with NAS replication requirements, have been waiting for this release. As a member of the PowerStore 3.0 beta program, we can state that the functionality we tested all worked well. Equally impressive is the investment protection offered by Dell with the new functionality. I can not only upgrade my existing systems to be able to use what's new, but for features that require slightly different hardware, I still have an upgrade path for things like NVMe media enclosures and FIPS-certified NVRAM drives. I don't think this will be a surprise to anyone, but PowerStore 3.0 is the fully-unified array we all wanted from day one. Given the outcome, it was worth the wait.