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Dell EMC PowerMax – Product Brief

Last updated May 9th, 2022 for product updates. Concise 7-page overview of the Dell EMC PowerMax. Product Brief includes EvaluScale Reviewing Methodology. Download the free Product Brief now!


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, protecting of snapshots to S3 target storage, 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 Dynamic 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 PowerMax Bricks (or zBricks 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 Dynamic 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 Dynamic 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 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 PowerProtect DD 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 PowerProtect DD 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.

Cloud Mobility is a software feature that runs as a VM on the PowerMax hypervisor and protects data by copying snapshot over Ethernet to S3 storage. Dell EMC ECS is supported for on premises object storage. Amazon AWS and Azure as supported for public clouds.

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.

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