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Dell EMC XtremIO – Product Brief

Last updated December 28th, 2018 for annual review and updates. Concise 8-page overview of the Dell EMC XtremIO. Product Brief includes EvaluScale Reviewing Methodology. Download the Product Brief now!


EMC’s XtremIO X-Bricks are all solid-state systems, providing both FC and iSCSI block storage access.  XtremIO systems are designed as a multi-controller scale-out architecture, adding additional controllers and capacity ranging from 1 to 8 nodes. X2 system was announced in May 2017 with new packaging, higher capacity SSDs and faster processors.

All data is deduplicated and compressed (inline) prior to being written.  Dell EMC states there is no performance penalty for deduplicating or compressing data in-line.  Today, an X-Brick can be purchased in different capacity configurations – 7.2TB and 138 TB. With 1.92TB SSDs in the X-Bricks, the physical capacity is 138TB per 2-controller X-Brick and up to 1.1 PB of raw capacity with an 8-node, 16-controller cluster.

The data protection of SSDs is called XDP, which distributes data in a 23+2 arrangement and is designed to not cause a performance impact for the protection updating.  No spare is included in the XtremIO system.  EMC notes performance acceleration with no system level garbage collection by using an in-memory metadata processing that is implemented cluster wide.  Data is automatically distributed for load balancing by using part of the content-aware address (digital fingerprint) of the individual 4K blocks to select the node for storage.  Access to data on the different nodes is accomplished using RDMA transfers over an InfiniBand interconnect.

EMC XtremIO system is a general-purpose block storage system designed for use in environments with high performance requirements or multiple workloads running on the same storage system.  A single X-Brick contains two controllers (servers) with a drawer of 72 solid-state devices.

The XtremIO system is scalable from one to eight X-Bricks currently (2 to 16 controllers).  The system comes with a number of standard features identified:

  • Thin provisioning with chunk allocation in 4K increments
  • Scale-out architecture and data distribution
  • Read only and writeable Snapshots
  • Inline deduplication and compression
  • Device-based AES-256 bit encryption of data at rest
  • Data protection from component failures with algorithm to optimize use of SSDs.

Their dual-stage metadata management allows for real-time data placement, balanced resource utilization, and maintains levels of performance during controller outage and rebuilds.  Since the metadata and its management is done cluster wide, data is evenly distributed throughout the cluster.

The data protection, XDP has no system level garbage collection and uses back-end processes to free up empty blocks to minimize negative impacts on performance.  XDP is designed to handle overwrites without the need for log structured file storage and is partial stripe optimized.  Dell EMC has measured capacity overhead at 12% on average with a best case of 8%, which is low compared to RAID 1 at 50%, RAID 5 at 25%, and RAID 6 at 20%.  There is no spare SSD.

The shared in-memory performance is independent from I/O access patterns.  In VMware virtual environments using the VAAI X-Copy command, the copies are created at the metadata level.  This method is faster than waiting until all writes are complete for the command to report copy completion  from the storage.  There are similar efficiencies for Hyper-V environments using ODX.


XtremIO is designed as a general purpose, high performance storage system competing with other enterprise systems.  Target applications are those requiring high performance without a large capacity requirement.  The targeted initial applications are database online transaction processing (OLTP), Virtual Desktop Infrastructures (VDI), and virtual machine storage.

XtremIO has support for VMware Web client and vCenter plugins.  The VMware support enables users to perform storage allocation along with performance and capacity management from within the VMware console.  Additionally, support for VMware VAAI provides enhanced performance with VMware based workloads, including thin reclamation, block zeroing and virtual machine cloning operations.  The unique approach for x-copy supports the copy only being done at the metadata level to make copying data complete faster.

Currently, there is no support for storage-based remote replication.  Dell EMC refers to use of RecoverPoint and VPLEX for DR protection.

  • All solid-state storage design
    • Deduplication and compression in-line (average 6:1 reduction)
    • Balanced usage of all controllers and SSDs for consistent performance
    • Includes AES 256 bit encryption of data at rest
  • Controllers resident in two 1U enclosures
  • Separate 1U cables for every pair of nodes
  • NVRAM card per controller
  • Storage shelves are 2U enclosures with hot swap power
  • External ports
    • 4 x 16 Gb FC or 4 x 10 Gb Ethernet
  • Performance
    • Single X-Brick 220K read 8KB IOPS
    • Dual X-Brick 440K read 8KB IOPS
  • VMware Integration Points
    • vCenter web client plugin enables LUN creation with a single dialog
    • Performance and capacity information available via plugin also
    • VAAI primitives
    • VMware MPP, ALUA and Round Robin for both iSCSI and FC
  • Snapshots – included in base offering
    • Read only or writeable
    • 100% in DRAM memory

Evaluator Group EvaluScale™: Dell EMC XtremIO – SAN Storage

Evaluator Group product review methodology “EvaluScale” assesses each product within a specific technology area.  The definitions of the criteria and explanations of how products are reviewed can be found in the  Evaluator Series Evaluation Guide. Download the product brief now to view the Evaluscale for this product.

Evaluator Group Opinion: Differentiating elements for Dell EMC XtremIO

Dell EMC XtremIO is a scale-out all flash storage system for block I/O.  The system scales up to eight nodes called X-Bricks.  Currently, each node must be of the same type and have the same capacity.  Evaluator Group believes Dell EMC will be releasing new software that will remove this restriction, which can be very limiting for some customers.  Currently the XtremIO does not support remote replication internally or have an active-active stretched cluster implementation native to the system.  These are needed in most enterprise environments and will be limited for many even though use of RecoverPoint and VPLEX help overcome the limitations.  Evaluator Group believes these will be addressed in an upcoming software release.  No official outlook has been given at this point.

The XtremIO system has been successfully sold into many environments by EMC, doing especially well in database and VDI usages with the deduplication and compression overcoming replicated images.  Dell EMC has multiple all flash products now with Unity and VMAX All Flash, so the decision about which product to evaluate and acquire has become more complicated.  The service and support provided by EMC and now Dell EMC has met the expectations for use in critical enterprise environments.

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