EMC rolls out VNXe3200 array, unveils 'Project Liberty'

EMC brings out the newest entry-level VNX unified storage array and reveals its next software-defined storage initiative, code-named 'Project Liberty'.

EMC Corp. launched VNXe3200 today, seven months after upgrading the rest of its VNX unified storage platform. The storage giant also unveiled "Project Liberty," a virtualized software initiative based on the VNXe and VNX systems.

VNXe is the entry-level array of the VNX platform, but wasn't part of the VNX2 launch last September. EMC added VNX enterprise features -- such as multicore optimization, FAST automated tiering software and Fibre Channel (FC) support -- to the 3200. Previous VNXe arrays supported NAS and iSCSI, but didn't support FC, as VNX arrays do. EMC also added thin provisioning and deduplication for files -- but not for block storage -- to the VNXe3200.

The initial release of the EMC VNXe3200 holds up to 50 drives, and EMC pledged to increase that to 150 drives later this year. Drive options include 100 GB and 200 GB flash solid-state drives, as well as 300 GB and 600 GB 15,000 rpm, 600 GB 10,000 rpm, and 2 TB and 4 TB 7,200 rpm SAS drives. There's no limit on how much flash can be used in a VNXe3200.

EMC said the VNXe3200 supports three times as many virtual machines, virtual desktops, Microsoft SQL transactions and Microsoft Exchange mailboxes as the previous VNXe arrays. It uses the Intel Sandy Bridge Quad Core 2.2 GHz Xeon processor.

These gains are due largely to the multicore optimized software that makes better use of Intel CPU cores and threads, rather than using more sockets and running cores at higher clock rates. EMC first added multicore processing to the VNX2 systems last year.

EMC positions the VNXe as an array for remote offices, small- and medium-sized businesses, and departments in large organizations. The VNXe3200 is expected to be available by the end of June, with a list price starting at approximately $12,000.

EMC Project Liberty: The next step for software-defined storage

The Project Liberty initiative is part of EMC's software-defined storage strategy. It's a software version of VNX and VNXe arrays that can be deployed on virtual servers at a remote site or in the cloud. Jon Siegal, EMC's senior director of VNX product management, gave a use case example of a customer quickly spinning up virtual array instances to speed test and development. "When they're ready to put them in production, they can move them to a VNX array," he said.

Project Liberty isn't yet a product, and will have a different name when it becomes one.

"This is a project, not a product," Siegal said. "It's a major initiative. It's reality. We have it running today in our lab; we're sharing it with customers and getting feedback from partners."

Siegal said Project Liberty is complementary to the ViPR software-defined storage that EMC launched in 2013. "ViPR is the orchestrator," he said. "Liberty enables a software stack based on VNX that would replace VNX under ViPR. You would still get object storage and [Hadoop Distributed File System] HDFS capabilities from ViPR."

When asked if EMC will expand Project Liberty to other hardware platforms, Siegal said, "Stay tuned." However, he wouldn't give a target date for when Liberty will become a shipping product.

Mark Peters, a senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, said initiatives such as Project Liberty show where storage is headed.

"They say all roads lead to Rome, and in my view, all roads lead to storage becoming an application," Peters said. "Liberty is testimony to that. It's a software version of an existing [hardware] product."

Peters said he expects to see Liberty extended to other EMC platforms. "They're now trying to run all of these [software-defined storage] programs as integrated links, but still separate. It makes sense that they all come together," he said.

EMC also said it's adding controller-based data-at-rest encryption for the VNX platform, but not for VNXe. VNX arrays will encrypt all user data at the drive level with an embedded key manager. Encryption will be available as a non-disruptive, in-place upgrade for VNX2 systems in the second half of the year. The encryption is similar to the controller-based encryption in EMC's high-end enterprise VMAX arrays. The VNXe3200 supports self-encrypting hard drives, but its controllers don't encrypt.

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