Dell has introduced the new midrange system “PowerStore” from Dell Technologies. It consolidates Dell’s three existing midrange arrays Unity, XtremIO and SC into a single product line.
The three array lines Unity, XtremIO and SC were created when Dell and EMC were still operating independently: Dell acquired Compellent and its SC arrays in 2010/2011, EMC XtremIO one year later. EMC also developed Unity from its VNX line, which in turn was based on Clariion technology acquired from Data General in 1999. After EMC was taken over by Dell, they wanted to consolidate the three midrange array products, because – clearly – developing three technologies for the same purpose makes little sense. That was the message at Dell World in Las Vegas in April 2019.
The project was first called MidRange.NEXT, and now it was called PowerStore (analogous to PowerEdge servers, Dell Technologies’ PowerMax high-end, PowerVault low-end and PowerSwitch network arrays). Essentially, the modular PowerStore systems feature a newly developed software design with small parts of Unity (for NAS), SC and XIO (for management). The data layer is new, as is the API. During product development, great attention was generally paid to the ansible or container interfaces, which now play an important role for a majority of users.
The overall architecture includes appliances with two nodes and is similar to that of SC. The hardware is a further development of the Unity-XT product series. PowerStore is the answer to the questions of the “data era”. The arrays should enable data centers to collect, manage and store data with almost no manual effort. The goal of the development is an autonomously operating data center.
Dell EMC PowerStore should be able to recognize and process any type of data, support NVMe end-to-end (NVMe oF is to come later) and maximize data reduction. Dell can guarantee a reduction rate of 4:1.
The entire array can be configured with NVMe SSDs or Storage-Class Memory (SCM); up to 21 SCM drives with 750 GB capacity are possible. Alternatively, up to 96 flash drives with a capacity of up to 16 TB and a mixture of NVMe (21) and SAS (75) could be available. In the basic 2U Drive Array Enclosure (DAE) there are probably 25 NVMe slots. Access is via 32 bit/s FibreChannel or 25/10 Gbit/s iSCSI. As a reason for the fact that NVMe is not yet fully supported today because Dell reserves the right not to use proprietary technology in order not to limit themselves in the flexibility of further development of the systems.
Container plus VMware Hypervisor
PowerStore is designed to provide 99.9999 percent availability, provide a programmable infrastructure (using VMware, DevOps, Kubernetes and the open source orchestration tool Ansible), perform automation based on a machine learning engine (ML), and enable active monitoring and predictive analytics. Dell points out that with the PowerStore OS a containerized infrastructure has been created. The VMware hypervisor ESXi (VAAI & VASA plus vVols, vRO/vRA and VMware CloudFoundation) provides a high abstraction of storage. With “AppsON” applications could be executed directly on the array.
Small footprint, great migration opportunities
In terms of hardware, Dell highlighted the arrays’ narrow footprint – up to 70 percent less rack space would need to be moved. So PowerStore is also suitable for use at the Edge. Data-intensive applications could be run there and only the results, for example in the case of analyses of streamed measured values, could be transferred to the parent computer center.
In conclusion, Dell affirmed that PowerStore’s “Adaptable Architecture” makes any migration less daunting. From any storage platform (“any platform” is defined as the in-house product lines Xtremio, Unity, SC, VNX as well as PS) workloads could be moved to PowerStore with “less than ten clicks”. After all, existing Dell technology midrange arrays will coexist with the new PowerStore system in the future, most likely for many years. Consolidation, scaling and upgrades are also no longer a problem because of the Adaptable Architecture and are virtually automatic.
By the way: customers can of course either buy or lease the systems as before; but those who want a flexible payment method can also take advantage of a financial model based on “pay-per-use” – i.e. without the calculation of a base amount or minimum usage. Dell did not yet announce any concrete prices or financial plans even when asked.