EMC made quite a few announcements today at their “Redefine Possible” event in London. There’s a lot of coverage out there already, so I decided to present a summary of the whole thing in “too long; didn’t read” (TL;DR) fashion. Note that this isn’t an attempt to list everything from the event but rather to pull out what I found to be important. And check out “Stephen’s Stance” for my thoughts!
Is it possible to do a TL;DR on a TL;DR? Oh yes!
- There’s a new third-generation Symmetrix VMAX that’s bigger and faster, allows you to reallocate CPU and memory, and includes a hypervisor called HyperMax to run storage services inside the frame
- Isilon has been upgraded with Ivy Bridge for performance, “SmartFlash” caching, and SMB Multichannel, Hadoop HDFS, and OpenStack Swift protocol support
- XtremIO continues to mature, with 2.4 going GA, 3.0 announced (with compression), and non-VDI solutions offered with VCE and Pivotal
- EMC has acquired TwinStrata, an enterprise cloud gateway
So that’s the takeaway. Now for a bit more detail.
VMAX3: Bigger, More Flexible, and with a Hypervisor
Even two decades on, there’s no product line more important to EMC than Symmetrix, now called VMAX. This is their flagship enterprise storage array and the company reportedly derives much of their profit from the high-end product line. But the second-generation VMAX was getting long in the tooth, with many wondering when an upgrade would come. The answer to that is “today.”
The third-generation VMAX (which itself was the seventh-generation Symmetrix) is bigger, more flexible, and includes a new OS with a built-in hypervisor allowing storage applications to run inside. This is good stuff, cementing the position of the venerable and venerated Symmetrix as the flagship storage array for the entire enterprise storage industry, not just EMC.
Here’s what you should know:
- Most important is the new Hypermax OS, which apparently incorporates both the Symmetrix software and a hypervisor to run applications directly on the frame – initially data services, but potentially much more in the future
- VMAX3 Dynamic Virtual Matrix breaks the old fixed allocation of cores and memory, allowing them to be dynamically reallocated between front end, back end, and hypervisor guests
- The VMAX3 lineup is bigger and faster, with the 10K, 20K, and 40K being replaced by the new 100K, 200K, and 400K supporting plenty of disk, SSD, and processor cores
- EMC dumped RapidIO as the back-end interconnect (call it “East-West” maybe) in favor of InfiniBand (which is also used in Isilon and XtremIO) and back-end drives are all SAS now
Isilon Flash Cache, Data Access, and Ivy Bridge
The big news in Isilon is “SmartFlash”, the first time the system has offered a flash cache for data, not just metadata. This ought to dramatically improve performance for many workloads, and it’s pretty puzzling how the system got this far without flash caching! Like all of Isilon, this SmartFlash cache is distributed and consistent across nodes, which is a neat trick, and scales to 1 PB.
I’m also excited about new data access methods for Isilon: SMB 3.0 Multichannel comes first, allowing Windows Server 2012 clients to scale performance to really take advantage of 10 Gb Ethernet. This is delivered right away, but we’ll have to wait a while for two more promised access methods: Hadoop HDFS 2.3 and OpenStack Swift! This could be a huge new use case for Isilon, especially if data is transparently available across NAS, HDFS, and Swift – it’s a modern interpretation of the NetApp value proposition from the 1990’s with NFS and CIFS mashed together.
Isilon hardware has also been upgraded, with Intel Ivy Bridge CPUs boasting higher performance. EMC says the two new Isilon arrays offer “twice the performance at half the cost”. These are the S210 and X410, and EMC benchmarks them at twice the IOPS or twice the bandwidth, respectively.
There’s also a Pivotal and Isilon bundle for Hadoop and a VCE Isilon Hadoop solution.
XtremIO 2.4 is GA and 3.0 is previewed
Over on the XtremIO side, EMC has been busy bringing the previously-announced 2.4 software to production while also prepping a new 3.0 release. Version 2.4 was announced in May but goes GA with snapshots and data at rest encryption. It seems that XtremIO already used self-encrypting SSDs, but this feature wasn’t turned on. It’s now enabled for both existing systems and new ones. The software has also been tuned and tweaked for performance. EMC says “everything is twice as fast.”
XtremIO is also shifting from a niche solution mainly for VDI workloads to a full-on enterprise storage alternative. This includes first-class integration with data services from EMC like ViPR and RecoverPoint but is mainly a conceptual shift inside EMC. Scale-out systems like XtremIO and Isilon are clearly the future of enterprise storage, and EMC is working to make this happen.
EMC also previewed version 3.0 of the XtremIO software, complete with inline compression to go along with the existing data deduplication and thin provisioning.
Dave Henry did a good job covering XtremIO too!
EMC Acquires TwinStrata
As I covered in a separate article, EMC also announced their acquisition of TwinStrata. This gives the company another onramp to cloud storage, and I expect it to find its way into the Hypermax OS hypervisor in the VMAX3 shortly!
Also see Andrew Miller’s coverage of the Q&A
This was a big day for EMC, but most of the focus was on evolution of existing systems. That’s not where I was focused, though. Instead, I spotted a real shift in EMC from traditional cash cows like Symmetrix to future scale-out systems. And I also had a great conversation about EMC’s future in the nascent “top of rack flash” market. I’ll write more about that soon.
Overall, EMC did what they needed to do to keep Symmetrix the shining star of legacy enterprise storage while also moving future challengers like XtremIO and Isilon forward for next-generation architectures. It’s a difficult plate spin but EMC has done a wonderful job so far of keeping ahead of the many, many competitors trying to eat their lunch. They’ve aced current-generation architecture and they’ve got a solid plan for the future.
Disclaimer: I’m “EMC Elect” and the company paid my way to London. They also sponsor my Tech Field Day events from time to time, but so does just about every one of their competitors.