Research Library

Dell EMC Unity XT – Product Brief

Last updated February 1st, 2021 for updates to metro node. Concise and unbiased 7-page overview of the features and functionality of Dell EMC Unity XT. Download now!


The Dell EMC Unity XT system is derived from the EMC VNX/VNXe series of storage systems with a new operating environment and new hardware configuration. Unity XT systems have both all flash and hybrid models and are scale-up systems with dual active controllers. The unified systems support block and file with the file software originally released in the VNXe3200.

Many of the software functions of the Dell EMC Unity XT systems were extracted from VNX software. The Unity XT systems use a SuSE Linux kernel and support Docker containers. The filesystem software supports multiple NAS servers. Unisphere is the element manager as a web GUI, implemented with HTLM5.

Packaged in a 2U enclosure, the dual controllers also have the option of 25 2.5” devices or 12 3.5” devices. Additional devices added with Disk Array Enclosures contain either 15 3.5” devices in a 3U enclosure or 80 2.5” devices in a 3U enclosure. Software features are included in the base price and include snapshots, asynchronous file and synchronous and asynchronous block remote replication, VVOLs and VASA support. Telemetry data is collected and analyzed with a SaaS product called CloudIQ. CloudIQ performs health checks and schedules proactive maintenance based on the analytics.

The SSDs in the Dell EMC Unity XT All-Flash models have a lifetime warranty as long as a maintenance contract is in place. In addition, the maintenance price is guaranteed not to be increased from the initial purchase.

Inline compression is selectable on a LUN basis for all flash storage pools. For file operations as a NAS system, policy-based file tiering to clouds is included.
The architecture of Dell EMC Unity XT is depicted in the following diagram:



The Dell EMC Unity XT system is targeted for usage in the mid-tier enterprise environments that need either a SAN block storage solution, a NAS system or both. The Dell EMC Unity XT system has a low entry price and includes many advanced features and capabilities.

  • Characteristics
    • Performance – Dell EMC has quoted performance numbers of the all-flash system as approximately 900K IOPs at 8K with 80% reads and 20% writes.
    • Availability – With two storage processor nodes configured, the Unity XT has the high availability characteristic including the failover and failback required of a mid-tier system.
    • Replication for BC/DR – Both asynchronous and synchronous block remote replication is available. Support also includes RecoverPoint software with a write splitter.
    • Notable – Unisphere is a high-value administrative tool with advanced capabilities and an implementation of HTML5. Unisphere Central can manage multiple systems over multiple sites.
  • Applications
    • The Dell EMC Unity XT is targeted at applications that use block I/O, file I/O, or both in a combined system.
    • The features of snapshot and remote replication give customers high-end system capabilities in a product targeted at the mid-level with the sophisticated implementation offered by Dell EMC. The performance and features allow applications to be deployed in a high availability environment.
  • System environments
    • Dell EMC Unity XT is a block storage system accessed using Fibre Channel and iSCSI with standard iSCSI drivers on host systems and a NAS system with NFS and CIFS support. The hardware supports NVMeOF which is not yet available.
  • Deployment and Administration
    • Unity XT has been targeted for installation and management by the IT generalist and includes wizards and quick start configurations to allow for simple deployments.
    • The management is through Unisphere.
    • Dell EMC has released vSphere plug-ins in addition to other VMware support. VAAI, VVOLs and VASA are also supported.

Evaluator Group EvaluScale: Dell EMC Unity XT – 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 Unity XT

Dell EMC Unity XT is a unified SAN and NAS system where the file serving function is integral to the system and not an additional, “bolt-on” controller. This allows for a lower hardware price and usually a better, integrated management experience. The maturity of the NAS implementation includes a full spectrum of file protocols, more than is usual in the mid-tier and entry markets. A full suite of advanced features are also available with the exception of tiering of LUNs to clouds/object storage although file-based tiering does support S3, Azure, and VirtuStream targets. Use of CloudArray or VPLEX does allow tiering of LUNs to clouds. Unity XT is one of the few NAS products that allow a stub or symbolic link to be left after tiering enabling automatic recall.

Unity XT is not a scale-out system, which means for increasing performance in parallel with capacity, a new controller pair (another Unity XT model) must be installed with data-in-place as an upgrade. Other competitive systems have implemented scale-out functionality for a more measured growth. Evaluator Group believes the long heritage of the Unity XT system evolved from EMC VNX and Clariion before that, means it is a low-risk, high functional value storage solution. The lack of scale-out is one limitation that must be managed by the customer when choosing the correct model and planning for replacements on pace with coupled capacity and performance demands.


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