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Dell EMC all-flash moves focus on VMAX, XtremIO and Isilon

Dell EMC VMAX and XtremIO SAN all-flash arrays christen Dell EMC World 2017. All-flash Isilon NAS adds Infinity modular architecture. Dense flash in compact footprint is the focus.

Day 1 of Dell EMC World 2017 turned into a flash fest.

Amid pomp and circumstance -- and an estimated 13,500 attendees -- Dell EMC World 2017 kicked off Monday with capacity and performance upgrades to three all-flash storage platforms. New Dell EMC all-flash models include faster, denser versions of VMAX and XtremIO SAN arrays and a redesigned Isilon scale-out NAS.

The newly merged storage vendor also said it would keep the Dell EMC Unity branding for its midrange flash and hybrid arrays, despite losing a recent trademarking battle in court. Dell EMC unveiled three new Unity models at its annual user conference, despite a federal court ruling last month that awarded trademark priority for Unity to rival storage vendor Nexsan.

"We're doing an end-to-end all-flash refresh," said Sam Grocott, senior vice president of marketing for storage and data protection at Dell EMC.

Dell EMC also upgraded its SC -- formerly Compellent -- platform, launching an SC5020 hybrid block array to replace the entry-level SC4020.

New all-flash VMAX flagship sails into view

VMAX is Dell EMC's flagship array family. The all-flash VMAX 950F replaces the VMAX 850F as the highest-density model. It has the same rack density as the 850F -- a 9U form factor with 240 drive bays -- but provides four times the raw flash capacity with 15.3 TB solid-state drives. VMAX 850F accepted 3.84 TB SSDs.

We're doing an end-to-end all-flash refresh.
Sam Grocottsenior vice president of marketing for storage and data protection, Dell EMC

A fully populated VMAX 950F could provide approximately 3.7 PB per rack. The Dell EMC all-flash VMAX provides workload consolidation for block, file, open and mainframe storage.

VMAX 950F embeds an Intel Broadwell chipset to juice performance for latency-sensitive applications. Throughput is rated at 6.7 million IOPS, which Dell EMC claims is nearly 70% higher than its previous generation.

Data protection enhancements for the VMAX 950F include secure snapshots with policy-based retention periods. It lets customers tune their snapshots to meet compliance requirements. The VMAX 950 integrates Dell EMC ProtectPoint backup and recovery software and continuous data protection with RecoverPoint.

Scale-out XtremIO X2 adds scale-up capability

XtremIO X2 is the second generation of Dell EMC's only storage platform that has no models with any hard disk drives. Its predominant use case is virtual desktop infrastructure. EMC picked up all-flash startup XtremIO in 2012 and launched branded arrays on the technology in 2013. XtremIO arrays use X-Bricks that contain SSDs.

X2 packs more X-Bricks in a small footprint. Existing models support 25 SSDs in 6U. XtremIO X2 can fit 72 1.9 TB SSDs in a 4U chassis, or roughly 137 TB. A single chassis can cluster eight X-Bricks for more than 1 PB of storage.

"XtremIO has always been known for its scale-out capabilities. Add another brick, and you can scale out compute, density and capacity linearly," Grocott said. "But now, we let you scale up the density of a single X-Brick by adding more drives to it."

Missing from XtremIO X2 is the scale-out Dell Fluid File System (FluidFS). Dell acquired FluidFS from Exanet in 2010 and added the file capabilities to Compellent and EqualLogic SAN arrays. Last year, Dell EMC said it would integrate FluidFS in XtremIO, and product development teams were already collaborating on it. However, that plan has been shelved.

"We're not going to pursue that at all," Grocott said. "Not today, not tomorrow. It came down to the fact that we don't need another file system to go after XtremIO use cases. We have Isilon, Unity and others in the portfolio, so we decided to keep XtremIO laser-focused on use cases in the all-flash block segment."

Dell EMC Isilon NAS grows to Infinity

The updated all-flash Isilon NAS filer is built with Dell EMC Infinity architecture. It builds on the theme of concentrating dense flash in less space. Infinity is a modular design that embeds four bladed compute nodes and 60 SSDs in a 4U chassis. Up to now, an Isilon deployment required four dedicated 4U nodes, topping out at 35 drives in 16U.

A single Isilon Infinity chassis scales to 924 TB with 15 TB SSDs. Customers could cluster up to 36 Infinity chassis -- 144 nodes -- and get 33 PB within a single-volume file system. Future Isilon disk-based archiving and hybrid NAS models will be based on Infinity.

Scott Sinclair, a storage analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group Inc. in Milford, Mass., said Dell EMC all-flash products -- VMAX and Isilon -- address a market sweet spot to blend performance and scalability. He said one in five data centers is running out of physical space and seeking all-flash storage that fits its budget.

"CIO and IT administrators we've talked to are running out of everything: capacity, performance, physical space," Sinclair said. "Deploying new storage frames isn't free. Something like VMAX 950 lets them get more out of a single deployment. The ability to consolidate and provide greater capacity and performance in the same package has tremendous benefits.

"The benefit isn't that application A runs faster, although it will," he explained. "The benefit is that [one] infrastructure now allows me to consolidate applications A, B, C, D and E."

Entry-level, midrange flash gains attention

The Dell EMC Unity product line expanded with four new all-flash arrays: the Unity 350F, 450F, 550F and 650F. Initial Dell EMC Unity arrays came in a 2U, 25-drive form factor. The latest 3U Unity rack takes 80 SSDs and scales to 500 TB of usable storage. Maximum file-system size increases from 36 TB to 256 TB.

Native storage services on the Dell EMC all-flash Unity include inline file compression, integrated copy data management software with snapshot mobility, mapped RAID protection and external encryption key management with the Key Management Interoperability Protocol.

Dell EMC said it had no plans to cease using the Unity brand, even after a Massachusetts court order gave Nexsan trademark priority based on the timing of its filing with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

"The court's ruling addresses only a single issue in the case. It does not cast doubt on Dell EMC's rights to the product name Dell EMC Unity," Dell EMC said in a prepared statement.

Nexsan declined to comment on Dell EMC's decision to keep its Unity brand. An update to the Nexsan Unity multiprotocol array is expected this week.

The SC5020 hybrid system is a 3U array with 30 internal drive bays and up to 2 PB of storage, up from 1 PB in the SC4020. Dell was the first vendor to ship storage arrays with triple-level cell SSDs with its SC Series. SC5020 features dual controllers and Fibre Channel, iSCSI and direct-attached SAS connectivity.

This marks the second Dell EMC World user conference since the vendors finalized a $60 billion merger last year. The first combined event in October 2016 was the swan song for Dell World, which is being discontinued. The May Dell EMC World is a continuation of the annual user conference EMC has held since 2001.

Next Steps

Will all-flash arrays make hybrid arrays obsolete?

Dell EMC: 'We're OK with an all-flash overlap'

Hewlett Packard Enterprise scoops up Nimble Storage SANs

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