Dell EMC Revs All-Flash Arrays
June 21, 2017 Alex Woodie
Dell EMC shipped new releases of its VMAX All-Flash array last month that supports IBM i and other platforms. Specifically, the computer giant rolled out a new entry-level array that stores up to 1 petabyte, as well as a 4 PB monster designed for the most demanding operational and analytic workloads.
Dell EMC has a long history of providing enterprise-class storage for the IBM i server and its predecessors, starting with the old EMC Symmetrix arrays and continuing with today’s flagship VMAX All Flash frames. In fact, Dell EMC is the only other provider of native storage for IBM i servers besides IBM.
The new flagship array in Dell EMC’s catalog is the VMAX 950F. This beast of a SAN boasts some serious stats, including:
- Up to 6.7 million I/O operations per second (IOPS), a 68 percent boost from the previous generation
- Up to 150 GB/s of sustained bandwidth, which the company says is enough to handle simultaneous transactional (OLTP) and analytical (OLAP) workloads
- Latency for OLTP workloads as low as 350 microseconds, 30 percent faster than the previous generation
VMAX 950F and 250F customers get started with a single “V-Brick,” which contains a VMAX engine and 11 TB of base flash storage. VMAX 950F customers can stack up to eight V-Bricks together to extend the capacity and performance of their VMAX storage arrays, and with the help of 11 TB Flash Capacity Packs, get an effective capacity of 4 PB (after 4:1 compression is factored in).
By comparison, VMAX 250F customers can string together up to two V-Bricks. Together with the 11 TB Flash Capacity Packs, the VMAX 250F delivers an effective capacity of 1 PB (after compression and other data reduction algorithms are factored in). Dell EMC says the 250F can deliver up to 1 million IOPS, which is surely enough for midsize IBM i shops looking to step up to the latest in solid-state, consolidated storage.
The 950F and 250F join an existing VMAX array, the 450F, which can handle up to four V-Bricks, delivering up to 2 PB of storage capacity and up to 1.5 million IOPS. For the 450F, the first V-Brick delivers the VMAX engine and 53 TB of base capacity, while extra Flash Capacity Packs let customers scale up 13 TB at a time.
In addition to the core operating system and in-line compression and de-duplication features, Dell EMC’s VMAX Flash arrays can be equipped with the Symmetrix Remote Data Facility (SRDF), which provides data replication in support of a customer’s high availability agenda. (See our recent story “Understanding IBM i Options For High Availability” for more info.)
Other options include the vendor’s Data At-Rest Encryption (D@RE) and a migration service that the company promises does not require the customers to reboot their systems. All told, the company boasts that its VMAX All-Flash arrays features 99.9999 availability, making it an “ideal platform for consolidating mission-critical applications that demand the performance of flash and can never, ever go down – such as core banking, credit card processing, electronic billing, or hospital record systems.”
Dell EMC unveiled several other new storage arrays in other lines. This includes four new midrange Unity All-Flash arrays, the 350F, 450F, 550F and 650F, which deliver up to 500 TB of effective storage capacity for block and file data. The SC5020, meanwhile, provides a new price point for midrange-level hybrid block storage for block workloads. It also updated its Isilon object store. None of these storage arrays, however, support the IBM i server as the VMAX does.
IBM and EMC signed an agreement back in 2012 that extended their IBM i partnership through 2017. The partnership is necessary because of the different way that IBM i servers access storage. Internal IBM i disks use a 520 byte sector size, while the rest of the industry uses 512 byte blocks. VIOS also uses 512 blocks.
That 2012 partnership resulted in the development of a new D910-099 device type that sports a native 512 byte block FBA (Fixed Block Architecture) interface. All Dell EMC arrays support this device type, thereby eliminating the need for specially formatted 520 byte-per-block disks in the external storage array, without requiring the use of VIOS.
Centralized storage is becoming more popular in the IBM i installed base, although direct-attached disk is still the norm. According to HelpSystems 2017 Marketplace study, 65 percent of IBM i shops use only internal disk.
IBM owns the bulk of the SAN market amongst IBM i shops, with the Storwize V7000 having the biggest share; it’s used by 12.5 percent of all IBM i shops, followed by the DS8000 SAN at 9.1 percent, according to HelpSystems’ survey. All Dell EMC’s storage servers use Intel processors, as opposed to the Power processors you’ll find in IBM’s high-end DS8000 arrays, which gives it an edge in memory bandwidth. IBM’s lower-end Storwize SANs, alas, use Intel processors.