Dell Technologies adds end-to-end NVMe, Storage Class Memory to PowerMax

Dell becomes the first storage vendor to ship the Intel Optane SCM drives, and their synergies with the newly-enabled NVMe-over-Fabric up performance by 50 per cent and let the company tout it as the fastest storage array in the world.

Today, Dell Technologies is announcing a myriad of enhancements to their Dell EMC PowerMax storage arrays. The two big ones are delivering things which had been promised earlier – full end-to-end NVMe-over-fabric capability, and Storage Class Memory [SCM], as this becomes the first array to have SCM ship. In addition, automation is enhanced with new Kubernetes, Ansible and VMware integrations,  and the Dell Technologies Cloud Validated Designs for Dell EMC PowerMax announced at VMworld are now available.

PowerMax was the rebranding of VMAX introduced in the spring of 2018, with a major point of emphasis being that the new brand was built for NVMe going forward.

“Last spring, we announced PowerMax and it has done very well for us, exceeding our expectations,” said Caitlin Gordon, Dell EMC VP of Product Marketing.  “What we are announcing now is that the platform now has true end-to-end NVMe, and that PowerMax is the first storage array anywhere to ship the new dual port Intel  Optane SCM drives.”

PowerMax has supported NVMe since its inception, but only through supporting NVMe-based flash drives.

“Now we are providing full end-to-end support with support for NVMe-over-Fabric as well,” Gordon said. That is facilitated by the newly qualified PowerMax 32Gb FC I/O modules, 32Gb Connectrix switches, directors and 32Gb NVMe host adapters with PowerPath multipathing software.

“This upgrade of the software to provide multi-pathing all the way from the host to the array is a key part of the story.” Gordon added.

The synergies between the NVMe storage and the new SCM is another key part.

“NVMe is really a means to an end,” Gordon said. “The industry has moved to all- flash drives but they still leveraged the old SCSI-based protocols of the past. This allows us to unlock that capability, and move to the next generation of media SCM, which will do to flash what flash did to spinning drives. We are the first to ship SCM as persistent storage.”

The SCM here becomes a tier, between flash at the bottom and DRAM on top.

“The DRAM gets the fastest response time, but now instead of going from DRAM to flash, the customer can leverage these Intel Optane SCM drives,” Gordon said. “It’s the new generation of tiering.”

Gordon emphasized that Dell Technologies co-developed this dual port SCM drive with Intel.

“The combination of NVMe and SCM gets us below 100 microseconds read latency and up to 15 million IOPS, which is a 50 per cent improvement,” Gordon said. Dell says that this is now the world’s fastest storage array. At up to 350GB/sec, it also now provides 2X more total bandwidth than before.

“Most of the demanding IO requests come from a very small set of data, so the important question is how do you invest in the right amount of SCM for your system without having humans constantly required to manage it,” Gordon added. “We do this by leveraging machine learning. PowerMax has a built-in machine learning engine to place data on the right media type. It is built on the foundation of what we have been using for a number of years. The difference is granularity and the fact that it now gets more intelligent over time.”

Dell is also highlighting that the PowerMax 8000 storage array supports the industry’s highest SAP HANA TDI scalability.

“Many use PowerMax for SAP, and this scales to support 162 HANA nodes,” Gordon said.

Several new integrations designed to easily automate infrastructure operations and DevOps workflows were announced.

“We have been scripting for a very long time, but we are now able to manage complex infrastructure without scripting, which supports DevOps cycles,” Gordon said. “We are announcing a new CSI [Container Storage Interface] plug-in to give PowerMax integration with Kubernetes, available on GitHub, so that containerized workloads can be consolidated on PowerMax. We are now talking about a Kubernetes integration as part of a storage conversation, which brings the conversation up another level.”

In addition, Dell Technologies also announced a Red Hat Ansible Playbook for PowerMax integration, and a vRealize Orchestrator [VRO] plug-in for PowerMax.

The final part of the announcement, around the Dell Technologies Cloud, was a restatement of an announcement the company made at VMworld. Dell Technologies Cloud Validated Designs for Dell EMC PowerMax to help organizations build their own hybrid cloud infrastructure are now available.

“For partners, that cloud conversation is something that’s very powerful to leverage, and have a broad conversation with customers about what we can offer,” Gordon stated. “It lets us take the breadth of Dell Technologies and deliver it in a simple way.”

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