The Dell EMC PowerMax is the evolution of VMAX All Flash system with NVMe over Fabric and NVMe protocol for attached SSDs that is the flagship Dell EMC high-end enterprise storage system. The PowerMax system uses the embedded operating environment called PowerMax OS, InfiniBand for interconnect technology, ProtectPoint for direct backup of volumes, IBM mainframe and system-i support, and file access support with eNAS data services based on VNX NAS.
The Virtual Matrix architecture continues the evolution with the ability to dynamically allocate resources for workloads. Two models of the PowerMax system are available with differences in the number of engines, DRAM cache, connectivity, and capacity scaling. As with earlier versions, PowerMax supports IBM mainframe environments (the PowerMax 8000), open systems, and IBM System i.
The foundation of the PowerMax is the Virtual Matrix Architecture utilizing the PowerMax Engine as the core element and optimizations that were made to adapt the existing design for flash. The PowerMax is sold in Bricks (or Z-Bricks in the case of mainframe attach), which combines a PowerMax engine with storage capacity. The engines are comprised of multi-core processors, cache, front-end and back-end connectivity allowing the Virtual Matrix to scale from the entry-level configuration with one Brick to an aggregate up to eight Bricks in the largest model. Each Brick contains two directors, cross-director communication path linking them and redundant interfaces to the Virtual Matrix Interconnect and SSD capacity. Each director consolidates front-end, global memory, and back-end functions, enabling direct memory access to data.
PowerMax OS, the embedded operating environment for PowerMax, is a storage hypervisor providing internal virtual machines for running functional elements such as block storage, management, data protection, and other future advanced capabilities such as advanced analysis to determine data placement on SSDs or SCM.
PowerMax supports virtualization of third party storage and other Dell EMC storage with a feature called FAST.X. Other PowerMaxfeatures are available for volumes on the attached external storage. An additional integrity check called T10DIF is added to external volumes called eDisks created by PowerMax on the external systems.
PowerMax enables direct backup of data with the optional software feature ProtectPoint. With ProtectPoint, agents on application servers allow application administrators to direct the PowerMax system to backup volumes directly to a Data Domain system. The PowerMax uses changed block tracking to send only changed blocks (from the last full backup) to the Data Domain system. The Data Domain system will create a full backup from the changed data. Application administrators can direct the PowerMax to restore a volume or a specific object in a volume and PowerMax will communicate directly with the Data Domain system to perform the restore.
A hypervisor is included with the PowerMax OS to allow data services functions to execute internal to PowerMax. File access support is a data service that is adapted from the VNX file access support where data movers and control stations can execute as containers in virtual machines.
Inline hardware data compression and deduplication is supported in addition to compaction called data packing. The data reduction is selectively enabled at the group level and automatically targets less active data. Highly active data will not be compressed to reduce overhead for accesses.
Mainframe, open systems, and System i environments that require high performance, high availability, advanced feature sets, and the ability to scale as capacity and performance needs grow are the most likely candidates for the Dell EMC PowerMax. As enterprises transition primary storage to all solid state systems, the Dell EMC PowerMax provides the enterprise features compatible with earlier VMAX systems with the high performance and growing economic value of flash. The system will be in use across a broad range of host systems in demanding environments such as OLTP, decision support, and highly available operations.
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Dell EMC PowerMax is the end-to-end NVMe all flash version of the popular VMAX family with optimized configurations and is an evolution of the VMAX All Flash system. PowerMax is primarily a high-end block storage system for mainframe and open systems, with the PowerMax 8000 model supporting mainframe access. NAS capability have been added by running the VNX NAS software internal as virtual machines running in the PowerMax OS hypervisor. Evaluator Group believes that customers in the high-end enterprise will rarely combine block and file in the same system so, while the PowerMax makes this available, it will not be a major requirement or a deciding factor.
As a system that has evolved over time, the PowerMax and VMAX family have a large suite of features and demonstrated reliability and availability. It truly is a high-end enterprise system with all the capabilities that entails. As would be expected with a system with so many capabilities, there is a lot to consider in configuring and managing. Many of these options are exposed for change, which leads to the perception of complexity. Over time, the system has improved considerably in the management area. Configuration in the factory has allowed the setup to be completed quickly.
There are few choices in the high-end enterprise space and even fewer that have both mainframe and open system support. The PowerMax and the earlier VMAX family has been very successful and will continue to be. Dell EMC continues with enhancements and technology updates so the product will be expected to continue in the market.