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EMC Vplex expanded for active-active storage at EMC World 2011

The EMC Vplex active-active storage platform adds a Geo version that moves data non-disruptively over thousands of miles; also adds data moving capabilities to VNX and VMAX.

LAS VEGAS -- The biggest product launch at the second day of EMC World Las Vegas 2011 involved a member of the EMC Vplex active-active storage platform first promised at EMC World Boston 2010.

Last year, EMC rolled out its Vplex active-active storage for moving data across data centers. The plan was for four versions. The first two -- Vplex Local (migrate data within a data center) and Vplex Metro (link clusters up to 100 kilometers apart) -- were available in 2010. The other two -- Vplex Geo (asynchronous replication over thousands of miles between two data centers) and Vplex Global (ability to relocate data across multiple global locations over synchronous and asynchronous distances) -- were scheduled for early this year.

Vplex Geo officially rolled out Tuesday, with Vplex Global still on the drawing board.

EMC executives said Vplex Geo can move data, including virtual machine clusters, thousands of miles non-disruptively.

“Last year we demonstrated moving 26 VMs [virtual machines] over 26 miles. Now we can move 2,600 VMs over 2,600 miles without disruption of services,” said Brian Gallagher, president of EMC’s Enterprise Storage Division.

EMC Vplex Geo lets customers move data across heterogeneous storage arrays and keep the same data in separate data centers in an active-active configuration. New Vplex Witness software monitors two Vplex clusters and will automatically fail over applications if it detects a problem on one cluster.

“This is part of what I call our ‘Witness Protection Program,'” Gallagher said.

Vplex Geo is scheduled for release this summer. As for Vplex Global, Gallager said “the expected schedule for that is called ‘later.’ We expect it in the next 18 to 24 months.”

Moving data to the cloud, and elsewhere

Vplex Geo was launched on a day when EMC concentrated mostly on data moving products around its Vplex, VNX unified storage, and VMAX enterprise storage families.

For VNX, EMC will deliver a Cloud Tiering Appliance (CTA) and a connector for the Google Search Appliance (GSA). The CTA is a policy-driven device that connects to VNX and moves file data to service providers such as AT&T Synaptic Storage as a Service and other service providers that support EMC’s Atmos. EMC plans to support non-Atmos powered providers such as Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) in the second half of the year.

The CTA keeps a stub file on the VNX and moves the file off to the cloud. It also move files to backup hardware such as EMC Data Domain devices or from non-EMC filers to other hardware; this means EMC can use it to migrate customers from competitors such as NetApp to its own VNX or Isilon file storage systems.

The GSA connector is an optional software application that enables on-the-fly indexing for content stored on VNX systems. The connector doesn’t speed searches, but it does make the data available for Google to search it immediately instead of waiting for Google to re-index data.

New VMAX features include support for Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE), expanded Federated Live Migration (FLM) with support for dynamic multipathing for migration without downtime, and support for external servers running RSA Data Protection Manager for Symmetrix’s data at rest encryption.

EMC Vplex for high availability

Mario Scimone, chief technology officer (CTO) at container shipping company Contship Italia in La Spezia, Italy, said he has relied on Vplex Metro for high availability since last July. Scimone said he wouldn't need the Vplex Geo version because his company doesn't move data across vast distances, but he fails over data between two EMC Clariion CX midrange SANs in data centers a few miles apart.

“We’re a 24/7 operation, we never stop,” he said. “Before, we were using software to replicate, but we couldn’t actively switch over if we had a failure at one site. This was the only technology that would allow this feature.”

EMC considers Vplex its primary storage virtualization product, succeeding its Invista switch-based product that never caught on with customers. “Invista didn't get in the way of the I/O path and provided zero latency with non-disruptive data movement between heterogeneous storage,” Gallagher said. “What we needed to do with Vplex was deliver active-active data over a distance, and that required a caching architecture.”

EMC also sees Vplex as a way to move data into private storage clouds.

“This is a natural progression of the Vplex platform,” said Randy Kerns, senior strategist at Evaluator Group. “The use case isn't pervasive today, but over time it will get bigger.”

Kerns said the VMAX migration feature would have more of an immediate impact, especially for customers who want to upgrade systems without having to manually migrate data or use professional services. “It takes data migration out of the hands of IT,” Kerns said. “It has automated that. It will migrate data for you.”

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