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EMC VMAX array embeds backup, cloud services

Dave Raffo

EMC launched its latest VMAX high-end enterprise SAN array today, adding a new threaded operating system for managing workloads dynamically and the ability to embed application services on the array.

The new features include quality of service to prioritize workloads, and the ability to back up and restore data directly between a VMAX array and EMC Data Domain data deduplication disk target appliances. EMC is also adding a VMAX cloud tier through the acquisition of cloud gateway vendor TwinStrata, which the vendor disclosed today.

The new VMAX systems are the 100K, 200K and 400K arrays. All the systems use versions of Intel's Ivy Bridge processors with a maximum capacity range of 496 TB (100K) to 3.97 PB (400K), and a maximum cache range of 2 TB (100K) to 16 TB (400K).

However, the interesting additions to VMAX are in the architecture and the software.

The new architecture scales to 384 processing cores in the 400K. The VMAX Dynamic Virtual Matrix allows the cores to be used for front-end access, back-end storage access and processing for data services. The cores can be dynamically allocated for any process.

"If increased back-end storage is needed for data warehousing, you can move processing cores to the back end," said Barry Ader, vice president of product management for VMAX. "If front-end cores are needed for OLTP processing, you can move resources there. You can allocate cores for a workload-dependent performance."

The VMAX3 architecture also includes a Hypermax operating system that Ader referred to as a "storage hypervisor operating system" that allows data services to run inside VMAX. One of those services is EMC ProtectPoint, which backs up data directly from VMAX to a Data Domain disk backup target without requiring additional backup software or going through an application or media server.

EMC said this can recover data 10 times as fast as traditional methods.

"Because of the compute we have on board, we can now start to consolidate some of the infrastructure that surrounds the VMAX," said Jeremy Burton, EMC’s president of products and marketing. "A good example would be backup services. There are huge efficiencies to be gained by running backup software on the primary array. It's more cost-effective, and backup will go a lot faster because data does not need to transverse across the network."

EMC previewed ProtectPoint, then known as Project Centaur, at EMC World in May during a session featuring Guy Churchward, president of EMC’s data protection and availability group. Churchward said ProtectPoint will be expanded to other EMC primary storage arrays and perhaps competitors' arrays.

"Why do we want to limit it to VMAX?" Churchward said. "Let's put it across the other primary platforms, and why does it have to be an EMC platform? You want to be able to do any [array] to Data Domain."

Mark Peters, a senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), said the notion of going direct from primary storage to backup is old, but the execution is brand new. "I remember people talking about it 20 years ago, but talking about it is not the same as doing it," he said.

Hypermax also allows customers to create policy-based service levels they can change at any time, a feature especially helpful for private clouds. They can set Diamond, Gold or Silver service levels, and the operating system will automatically manage those levels through integration with EMC ViPR software. Customers can also set the service level for a balanced system through an optimized default setting.

Mike Matchett, a senior analyst and consultant at Taneja Group, said EMC is going further down the multi-core path than it travelled with its midrange VNX upgrade last year.

"With VNX’s extension to multi-core last year, EMC has figured out that CPU is relatively cheap," he said. "So much other stuff seems to be able to run on the new VMAX that it's destined to be a big data center convergence play, already sucking in ancillary storage workloads that would otherwise run nearby on auxiliary servers."

TwinStrata CloudArray gateways cache hot data on-premises and move older data to public clouds such as Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud Storage. EMC's Burton said the embedded TwinStrata technology will allow VMAX to treat the public cloud as a storage tier. He did not say whether EMC will embed TwinStrata technology in other EMC platforms or use it as a standalone product.

Positioning VMAX as a hybrid cloud system for enterprise and clouds, EMC is aiming to bring the system to where the market is going. But it could have trouble satisfying both on-premises and cloud IT teams.

"It is great to embrace both worlds, but the danger is [that] you could end up angering both," ESG's Peters said. "The new world cloud people could say, 'We don't want to be enterprise fuddy-duddies.' The old world storage guys can say, 'We know how to do it; we don't want to just push a button like Amazon.' Those two worlds have grown up separately, although we know they want to achieve the same things."

The new VMAX array scales through the addition of 4U engines, which each include two VMAX controllers and redundant interfaces to the Dynamic Virtual Matrix dual InfiniBand interconnect. The 100K includes one or two engines, the 200K has four engines and the 400K has eight engines. Each engine holds up to 2 TB of cache memory and 720 2.5-inch disk drives, 360 3.5-inch drives, or a mixture of 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch drives.

They support 300 GB 15,000 rpm, 300 GB, 600 GB and 1.2 TB 10,000 rpm 3.5-inch and 2.5-inch SAS spinning disk drives, as well as 200 GB, 400 GB and 800 GB flash drives. The arrays also support 2 TB and 4 TB 7,200 rpm 3.5-inch SAS disk drives. The 100K and 200K hold 1,440 drives and 2,880 drives, respectively, while the 400K holds 5,760 drives.


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