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Dell EMC adds VMAX 250F, support for 15 TB SSDs, compression

Dell EMC's first major product launch since the merger focuses on flash with VMAX 250F, inline compression and nondisruptive flash upgrades for VMAX and Unity.

Dell EMC is giving its VMAX and Unity storage platforms larger capacity drives, inline compression and nondisruptive upgrades aimed at improving the scalability and management of all-flash arrays.

The vendor rolled out a series of enhancements today along with a new VMAX 250F model in advance of Dell EMC World next week. Besides the VMAX enterprise and Unity midrange primary storage upgrades, Dell EMC refreshed its Data Domain disk backup platform and upgraded its VPLEX continuous availability software. The launch is the first major product news since Dell completed its $60 billion-plus acquisition of EMC in September.

Dell EMC added support for 7.6 TB and 15 TB solid-state drives (SSDs) in the VMAX All-Flash and Unity arrays. Until now, EMC did not support SSDs above 3.84 TB. Inline compression extends the effective capacity of those drives.

Neither feature is unique to EMC. Data reduction through compression or data deduplication is becoming table stakes for flash arrays, and NetApp, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and others already support 15 TB SSDs.

But the Dell EMC additions follow the strategy EMC laid out early this year when it declared 2016 the year of all-flash for primary storage.

Nondisruptive movement of data significantly reduces the risk to IT organizations as well as the operational costs of managing data.
Mark Peterspractice director and senior analyst, Enterprise Strategy Group

Chris Ratcliffe, senior VP of marketing for Dell EMC's Core Technologies group, said there will be more flash news next week. He called today's launch "The hors' d'oeuvres for Dell EMC World."

"Flash is the new normal," Ratcliffe said. "We've been going through a multiyear program of flash-enabling, flash-upgrading and building flash from the ground up at EMC."

With the nondisruptive data-in-place upgrades, EMC is looking to avoid a problem it had two years ago with its first all-flash platform. Back then, its XtremIO 3.0 software upgrade that added inline compression required customers to move their data off the array and then move it back after completing the upgrade.

Mark Peters, Enterprise Strategy Group practice director and senior analyst, said nondisruptive upgrades and data movement may benefit companies using flash storage more than the larger SSD capacities and compression.

"Nondisruptive movement of data significantly reduces the risk to IT organizations as well as the operational costs of managing data," he said. "These are significant budget drivers for IT organizations. New functions are more important in my view than merely enhanced features and specifications."

VMAX adds smaller footprint model

The VMAX 250F is the smallest of the VMAX all-flash series, which also includes the VMAX 450F and 850F. All three models are built on the same V-Brick architecture and HYPERMAX software. Each V-Brick consists of an engine with two VMAX directors (controllers), RAM cache, 50 flash drives and InfiniBand switching to connect the V-Bricks in a 4U chassis. The VMAX 250F supports one or two bricks, from 512 GB to 4 TB of system cache, and 100 flash drives. The 15 TB SSDs enable the VMAX 250F to scale to more than 1 PB before the inline compression. Dell EMC claims a fully loaded VMAX 250F can scale to more than 1 million IOPS with sub-millisecond response times.

Unlike the VMAX 450F and 850F, the 250F does not support mainframes.

The HYPERMAX enhancements work across the VMAX all-flash family. Along with compression, EMC added nondisruptive migrations for upgrading from VMAX3 to VMAX all-flash arrays, a virtual witness that allows active-active capability without requiring a third VMAX, and asynchronous replication to a third site using EMC SRDF/Metro software.

Unity gets more drives, capacity

Additions to the Unity line also include inline compression and support for the 7.6 TB and 15 TB drives. The larger drives bring Unity All-Flash's maximum capacity to 384 TB in a 2U rack. The Unity 600F now supports 100 drives -- double the previous number. EMC also added native file tiering to Amazon S3, Microsoft Azure and Dell EMC's Virtustream public clouds and CloudIQ cloud-based storage analytics. The cloud file tiering is native to the array, and does not incorporate the CloudArray software that EMC uses with other storage platforms.

EMC also added wear leveling that allows customers to mix different types of drives in an all-flash pool for Unity, and self-service upgrades from its older midrange VNX platform to Unity through the Unisphere management interface.

Data Domain receives speed, capacity bump

Dell EMC launched four new Data Domain models and a software upgrade that allows movement of deduplicated data to the cloud. The DD6300 is an appliance for midrange customers, scaling to 178 TB usable capacity before deduplication. The DD6800 stores up to 288 TB usable, the DD9300 can store 720 TB and the enterprise DD9800 scales to 1 PB. The 6300 is rated for 24 TB per hour with DD Boost software and 8.5 TB per hour without DD Boost. The 6800's rated speed is 32 TB per hour with DD Boost and 14 TB per hour without it, and the 9300 can move data at 41 TB per hour with and 20 TB per hour without DD Boost. The 9800's rated speed is 68 TB per hour with and 31 TB per hour without DD Boost.

The Data Domain operating system 6.0 includes Cloud Tier software, which moves data deduped on the disk system to public, private or hybrid clouds for long-term retention.

Dell EMC also rolled out an upgrade to Data Domain Virtual Edition (VE), the software-only version of the platform that runs inside a hypervisor. DD VE 3 scales to 96 TB per instance, runs on Microsoft Hyper-V hypervisors, supports DD Cloud Tier, and can be deployed on EMC VxRail hyper-converged appliances. Previous versions of DD VE only supported VMware hypervisors.

VPLEX optimized for flash

Along with a performance bump, EMC optimized VPLEX for flash with UNMAP thin provisioning support and integrated Copy Data Management (iCDM) across active-active data centers. EMC also launched VPLEX for All-Flash, which is licensed with no limit on the number of Dell EMC flash arrays or the amount of capacity protected.

All-flash for all primary? Not yet

So has this turned out to be the year of all-flash for primary storage as EMC predicted? Analysts said it was a start in that direction but may take a few product refresh cycles to complete the transformation.

"I would expect that by the time all refresh cycles are complete, most primary workloads will be on all-flash or hybrid flash arrays that utilize flash as a cache or a tier, with automated data movement)," said Ashish Nadkarni, IDC's program director for computing platforms.

ESG's Peters said, "If all primary workloads are not on flash in the time it takes for two hardware lifecycles -- about six to 10 years -- I will be very surprised."

Next Steps

Learn how to tell all-flash array vendors apart

Flash-only arrays slowly pushing hybrids out

AFA vendors: Add enterprise features ASAP

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When will we reach the year of all-flash for primary storage as EMC and others predicted for 2016?
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