Powering up with Dell at Storage Field Day 24

Storage Field Day is a highly anticipated event to meet and network with a select group of independent tech influencers and thought leaders. It’s always a great opportunity to have an open exchange on what’s happening within the storage industry with an experienced audience representing a wide range of perspectives. This year’s event was no different, with Dell taking center stage discussing how to deliver a continuously modern storage experience. This session included an update on the storage portfolio and strategy as well as a deep dive geek-out on what’s new and cool.

Delivering a Continuously Modern Storage Experience

IT organizations face a range of head wind challenges. They include dealing with operational silos, managing multi cloud complexity, increasing developer productivity and time to value for new apps, and protecting against the ever-increasing world of cyber threats. Addressing these challenges with a continuously modern storage experience helps turn headwinds into tail winds. It allows IT operations to be automated to boost productivity, reduce risks, and become flexible to ready for what’s next. Security is built in, versus bolted on, to innovate with confidence and trust. And it means building a multi cloud experience that simplifies operations where users don’t know, or care, whether an app is hosted on or off premises.

Dell’s software driven innovation provides adaptable software architectures, comprehensive cyber resiliency, and multi cloud flexibility to help address these challenges.  More important to the “what” the technology is, let’s look at “why” the technology matters.

Dell’s Storage Portfolio “Fun Facts”

An important part of Dell’s business includes the storage portfolio. It sits within Dell’s Infrastructure Solutions Group and represents the part of Dell that provides technology and solutions for the Data Center. In addition to storage, ISG includes servers, networking, data protection, security, and converged infrastructure. In 2021, ISG represented over $34B of Dell’s revenue, with $16.5B coming from storage. To put that into context, if the storage business was a stand-alone company, it would be ranked at 225 on the 2021 Fortune 500 list.

It’s a large organization for sure. An advantage of the scale of ISG is the ability to provide portfolio solutions to address a range of requirements and use cases more effectively. It also allows for “cross pollination” across different technologies to leverage investments, IP, and resources. ISG has invested over $7.6B in R&D on technologies and ecosystem support. Developers have access to over 26,000 patents and storage related IP. And over 85% or the development team are software engineers focused on new capabilities that solve user problems.

At SFD24, Dell provided a technology update on the portfolio, specifically PowerMax, PowerStore, and PowerFlex. These updates included an overview of the platform, highlights on what’s new, and an open discussion on the strategy for each. Here’s a look at what Dell is doing with the storage platforms and why it matters to users.

PowerMax Update – World’s most secure mission-critical storage

In this discussion, we look at what’s new and cool with the latest PowerMax Architecture. We also discuss how organizations leverage the trust, scale, and advanced data services to power their most important applications. Important capabilities include the following:

  • The new PowerMax architecture provides massive density and with the ability to scale compute and capacity independently. Unlike other arrays that package compute and capacity together, users can add nodes and/or media enclosures to meet a range of performance, capacity, and cost requirements. The use of NMVe internal based fabrics to connect resources provides a significant technical advantage allowing for flexible scalability.
  • New RAID technology provides improved flash drive resiliency and capacity utilization. The ability to expand RAID groups to add capacity allows users to take advantage of single drive upgrades. It’s important because it allows capacity to be added at granular single drive level versus other arrays that add capacity at the RAID group level. Having to add new RAID groups to add capacity makes it difficult to support high-capacity media, such as 15TB and soon 30TB drives. Having to upgrade at the RAID group levels forces users to accept lower capacity media to allow reasonable capacity upgrades. The impact becomes more drives and disk shelves requiring more power, cooling, and rack space.
  • Massive Snapshot scalability allows support for Cyber Vault use cases with RPO’s measured in minutes. PowerMax now support up to 65 million snaps, which sound like a marketing number. However, the need for millions or snaps is a requirement for users who have a use case for granular high frequency snaps used for cyber recovery. Dell’s best practice for Cyber Vault recovery consumes over 400 snaps per LUN or device. This means PowerMax can support over 150,000 LUNs in a single array. Other arrays are limited to 100,000 snaps and can only support up to 245 LUNs before needing to add another array to support more snaps.

Dell PowerStore – Intelligent Storage Adaptable to Any Future

PowerStore is the fastest ramping storage product in Dell Technologies history. In this session we discuss the architectural design and strategy that has enabled this explosive growth and overview the latest 3.0 software release which delivered more than 120+ new features. PowerStore is pioneering autonomous storage management and connectivity capabilities that have never before been possible. Important capabilities include the following:

  • PowerStore with Dynamic AppsON addresses requirements for independent compute and storage scalability. It provides an HCI platform that combines the automation and expandability of VXRail for compute with the data services and optimized performance of PowerStore.  All data services are supported including in line DRR, encryption, snapshots, and metro replication. Management is simple and automated via vSphere for all compute, network and storage administration making it an ideal HCI platform for “storage intensive” VM’s. Unlike traditional 3 tier converged infrastructure deployments with other arrays, Dynamic Nodes include full end to end lifecycle management for upgrades, service and maintenance across the compute, network, and storage stack.
  • Built in File Services based on a containerized architecture deliver highly scalable, efficient, performance-focused, and flexible file capabilities. New VMware file integration adds a streamlined NFS datastore creation workflow with NFS VAAI / VSI plugin support. All file capabilities easily enabled, so no extra hardware, software, or licenses are required making it easy to use and consume.
  • NVMe connectivity using 100Gb/s connectivity adds performance and bandwidth for users looking to build an IP based SAN. It can provide more performance versus block based i[DB1] SCSI connectivity combined with a lower cost per port versus Fibre Channel. SmartFabric Storage Software (SFSS) enables an end-to-end automated and integrated NVMe over IP fabrics connecting servers and storage targets using TCP. In a nutshell, it is a Dell developed software tool that simplifies and automates the end-to-end configuration set up and management of servers and storage arrays that are connected on an IP fabric.

Dell PowerFlex – Unbounded Software Defined Infrastructure

PowerFlex is unbounded software-defined infrastructure. Here we look at the software-first character of PowerFlex, its evolution in the recent 4.0 release, and how we run in the public cloud to enable uniquely resilient and powerful cloud storage architectures. Important capabilities include the following:

  • The availability of PowerFlex distributed block storage on AWS enables massive performance, availability, and scale – meeting even the toughest SLAs for mission critical workloads running in the cloud. It can quickly and easily scale out to meet increasing capacity and throughput requirements. Designed for cloud, it federates EC2 compute instances and their storage into a distributed block storage cluster, with no performance bottlenecks or IO penalties as it grows. Users select instance-types and storage configurations based on their needs, and they can leverage powerful resiliency protection by distributing across multiple availability zones. Scale testing has demonstrated that PowerFlex running on AWS delivers 10’s of millions of IOPS with multi-Terabit’s worth of bandwidth. Native async replication facilitates DR and data mobility between on-premises and the cloud, and between different cloud regions.
  • NVMe over TCP support for front-end connectivity provides a simple, agentless alternative for consuming PowerFlex volumes. NVMe is quickly becoming the new industry standard IP-based protocol for storage, with growing adoption in the storage networking space. It’s now supported by multiple OSs without requiring any host agent on the storage. The key drivers for adoption include the TCP protocol as a standard, common, and interoperable solution, allowing the use of existing network and hardware to deliver excellent, low-latency performance.
  • The integration of scalable software-defined File Services  enables delivery of high-performance NAS, expanding the PowerFlex consolidation use cases across file and block workloads. The implementation, with each file system backed by an elastic PowerFlex volume, is particularly suited to demanding transactional and high I/O file workloads. Supporting multiple access protocols, up to 256 namespaces, 10 billion files, and 4 million ACLs, businesses can segment, secure, and grow their delivery of file services to distinct user groups.

The “Why” of Building Continuously Modern Storage Infrastructure

Organizations can’t sit still in this dynamic digital world – and neither should their data storage. Dell’s continuously modern, software-driven storage portfolio is built to not just keep up but keep you and your users ahead. Dell’s adaptable software architectures with intelligence and automation boost productivity, reduce risk and help customers be ready for what’s next. Investments in Cloud-ecosystem flexibility with multi-cloud enabled software helps customers build innovative breakthroughs with their data anywhere. And comprehensive cyber-resiliency with software leading innovations enables customers to invest with confidence and make business breakthroughs possible.

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