PowerMax Powers Up!

It’s big week for Dell and the storage team. It marks the completion of a lot of hard work by the engineering and development teams to introduce the latest PowerMax release. It’s also significant for PowerMax users with the introduction of new capabilities to support new and evolving requirements for enterprise class protection, security, and cloud flexibility.

Before we dive into the cool details, today is also a major milestone for the storage industry itself.  Exactly 30 years ago from this month, the first generation of PowerMax, the Symmetrix, was introduced. Symmetrix forever changed the IT infrastructure landscape. It allowed users for the first time to decouple their CPU and storage decisions and provide the ability to safely choose best of breed technologies. This ability to choose storage independent of compute not only created today’s external storage marketplace, it also fueled the storage innovation and technology evolution that continues to be one of the most critical elements of IT.

A lot has changed since the old days of the original Symmetrix. But one thing has remained constant. IT organizations continue to trust this platform to support their most mission critical environments. And through the hard work of some of the most talented and dedicated storage professionals in the industry, PowerMax continues to be a pillar for today’s modern data center.

The New PowerMax capabilities available today with the latest release offer even more reasons to trust it for your most important apps and users. The highlights include new enterprise class VMware integration to support deployments at scale, new replication and encryption to increase protection and security, and new cloud integration to provide more operational flexibility and additional consumption options.

Let’s look at the details.

New support for vVol 2.0 and the embedded VASA 3.0 provider.

The 101 on vVols is that it provides a more granular way to manage an individual VM’s and their related storage. Traditional VM deployments use “datastores” for VM storage and an individual datastore may contain hundreds of individual VMs. While a datastore is a simple way to manage storage for large numbers of VMs, it can be coarse and uneven if users want more granularity to manage individual VMs for replication, snaps, QoS, etc.  Having the ability to manage storage for each individual VM via vVols can have many benefits, especially as the environment becomes more automated.

New PowerMax capabilities for virtual environments include automation with VMware’s SRM (Site Recover Manager) and PowerMax replication. This means users can leverage native SRM workflows at the vSphere level to simplify management for provisioning & replication tasks. It also means VM’s can leverage PowerMax’s powerful SRDF technology under the covers to perform and optimize the replication. The result is the combination of the gold standard in DR with VMware vVols and SRM. In addition, the embedded VASA provider now runs directly on the PowerMax and leverages the build in HA and NDU.

vVol device scale is also important for enterprise class deployments. PowerMax can support up to 64,000 vVol devices, which is up to 8X more than other alternatives.  Scaling up to thousands of vVol devices is import because a single VM will require multiple vVols, at least a minimum of 3 vVols (1 config, 1 data, 1 swap). If using snapshots, even more vVols are required. Just supporting hundreds of VMs can easily consume thousands of vVols.  So, scale matters and it is an important PowerMax advantage.

Increased levels of data resiliency and security.

Let’s start with SRDF Metro Smart DR, a truly unique remote replication technology. It provides applications with a 3-site replication solution running active-active between two metro sites (less than 60KM) over synchronous links and a single third site connecting the two metro arrays over an asynchronous link supporting extended distances. The solution allows users to transparently failover between the two metro sites while still maintaining replication to a third site. Users consider Smart DR the ultimate in DR recovery protection providing a “belt and suspenders” approach to high availability.

The Metro Smart DR secret sauce is not just in it’s providing the ability to have a primary site offline while still being protected. It’s also the ability to bring that site back online and resynch the updates across all 3 sites without having to take replication offline to let one of the arrays “catch up” with the changes.

While this may seem overkill from a protection perspective, there are real use cases that support the need for Metro Smart DR. Consider a user that routinely switches applications between metro sites regularly, and without Metro Smart DR, having manually resynch everything back to a third site. In some cases, the resynch could take hours to days depending on the change rate. It may also require the replication to be suspended while the resynch happens compromising DR in the event of a failure during the resynch. Metro Smart DR solves this problem and is critical for apps processing credit card transactions, monitoring and controlling energy pipelines, and managing real time access to patient health records.

Another area of concern that is becoming more top of mind for IT organizations is securing the data itself. Encrypting data has proven to be an effective way to secure access. PowerMax has been encrypting data at rest (D@RE) for years and for many is a “check the box” basic security requirement. New requirements for encrypting data in flight, from the host to the media, are emerging.

The challenge with writing encrypted data is that the process makes all the writes unique. This has a major impact on arrays that support data reduction.  Apps that can see a 4:1 data reduction with compression and dedupe will go to near zero data reduction when the data is encrypted. That means in order to support these encrypted application, 4 times more capacity is needed.

PowerMax is introducing End to End Efficient Encryption to address this issue. The feature allows PowerMax to share encryption keys from the host and decrypt data as it is written to the array to maintain data reduction efficiency. It’s performed via a hardware offload, which means there’s no performance impact. PowerMax also re-encrypts that data after the data reduction process to maintain secure access. While most applications might not need this level of security today, it can be support for those that do. It also provides investment protection for apps in the future that may require this level of encryption.

Leveraging PowerMax to extend data service along your journey to the cloud.

For most IT organizations, core applications run within their private cloud data centers. It provides those core apps the control, TCO, and service levels needed effectively to run the business. Having the ability to extend some of those capabilities to the “cloud” can also provide some additional operational benefits. Now included with PowerMax is the ability to move and share applications with the cloud.

PowerMax cloud mobility is currently targeted to the use case for offloading snapshots to an S3 compliant object store. This could include Dell’s ECS object store, Amazon AWS, or Microsoft Azure cloud services. It allows users to create snapshots and choose to offload them to any of these cloud types to free up primary storage capacity for other needs. It also provides users a way to consume snapshot capacity “on demand” and as a service. It can be an attractive option for heavy snap users, data and apps that are being archived, and snapshot with long term retention requirements. There’s been a lot of interest from customers when talking about this capability.

Behind the scenes, a lot of work and discussions with users went into the development of this feature because we wanted to get it right. In getting it right, we needed to do three things. First, we needed to be very specific in the feature’s use case. What problem are we trying to solve? What are the users’ requirement? Second, we needed to make it easy to use. Setting up and connecting to the object store takes minutes. The process is symmple (😊) and includes a wizard. All the admin has to do is enter in the IP addresses for the cloud storage you want to connect into and follow the naming and verification steps to complete the set up. The management of the snaps is all baked into the snapshot workflow and is managed via GUI or REST API. No vApps, external appliances, or 3rd party software tool add ons required. You simply create a snap policy and decide if the snap lives on the local array or the connected cloud. Third, we wanted to make it easy to consume. The feature is included with the array (yes, it’s free). There’s no additional hardware required other than ethernet ports required to connect to the object store.

Net-net, PowerMax cloud mobility solves a common storage capacity problem, its super easy to use, and its free.  If you have a PowerMax in the environment today, give it a try. We think users are really going to like it. 😊

But wait, there’s more. At some point, a user might want to access the data from the object store. Do you have to restore it back to PowerMax? Or can you run the app in the cloud? The answer is yes, we can do both. Restoring back to the PowerMax looks no different than a traditional snap restore. Having the option to restore to the cloud can also be done by running the PowerMax hydration app available in Amazon Marketplace. It allows users to convert the S3 object device to an EBS block device. Once you have the block device you can mount a VM with the required compute and run the app in the cloud. This can be a great option to support things like offline processing, analytics, queries, and database tests.

One use case identified by multiple users includes moving archived apps off the PowerMax to the cloud. This frees up the PowerMax storage resources for other needs but keeps app is available in case the data needs to be accessed in the future. That access can now happen by either restoring it back to the PowerMax, or running it in the Amazon cloud. Very cool flexibility and consumption options.

There’s lots of cool things included in this PowerMax release to be excited about. Having been on the front lines, talking to users and partners, and working behind the scenes with the engineers and developers, it’s great to finally have it ready to go. It’s been amazing to be part of the team working on a platform for over 30 years that continues to deliver innovation. It’s even more amazing to see how this innovation solves real problems for our users when it’s deployed.

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