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Dell EMC VMAX All Flash – Product Brief

Last updated September 3rd, 2019 for updates to EvaluScale table. Concise 8-page overview of EMC VMAX All Flash product. Includes usage, potential, strengths and concerns. Download the free Product Brief now!

Overview

The Dell EMC VMAX All Flash system as the name indicates is an all-flash version of the Dell EMC high-end enterprise storage system based on VMAX.  More specifically, this is a further evolution of the VMAX³ system with optimizations for use of flash and some functionality changes.  The VMAX All Flash system uses the embedded operating environment called HYPERMAX, 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.  Three models of the VMAX All Flash system are available with differences in the number of engines, DRAM cache, connectivity, and capacity scaling.   As with earlier versions, VMAX All Flash supports IBM mainframe environments (except for the VMAX 250F), open systems, and IBM System i.

The foundation of the VMAX All Flash is the Virtual Matrix Architecture utilizing the VMAX Engine as the core element and optimizations that were made to adapt the existing design for flash.  The VMAX All Flash is sold in V-Bricks, which combine a VMAX 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 V-Brick to an aggregate up to eight V-Bricks in the largest model.  Each V-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.

HYPERMAX, the embedded operating environment for VMAX³ and VMAX All Flash, is a storage hypervisor providing internal virtual machines for running functional elements such as block storage, management, data protection, and other future advanced capabilities. Optimizations for All Flash include Write Folding, which aggregates the latest update of data to minimize the number of writes to flash.

VMAX All Flash enables direct backup of data with the optional software feature ProtectPoint. With ProtectPoint, agents on application servers allow application administrators to direct the VMAX system to backup volumes directly to a Data Domain system.  The VMAX 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 VMAX to restore a volume or a specific object in a volume and VMAX will communicate directly with the Data Domain system to perform the restore.

A hypervisor is included with the HYPERMAX OS to allow data services functions to execute internal to VMAX All Flash.  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 is supported as of October 2016 for VMAX all flash systems.  The compression is selectively enabled at the group level and automatically targets less active data.  Highly active data will not be compressed.

Usage

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 VMAX All Flash.  As enterprises transition primary storage to all solid state systems, the Dell EMC VMAX All Flash 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.

  • Characteristics
    • Performance – The VMAX family is the flagship system from Dell EMC and the VMAX All Flash system is the highest performance system. Dell EMC will quote their own performance test data, which is 6.7M IOPs at 350 microseconds response time with 150 GB/s aggregate bandwidth.
    • Availability – The VMAX has built in redundancies, multi-node/director support, and replication capabilities for the highest-level availability requirements from a storage system.
    • Replication for BC/DR – Both asynchronous and synchronous remote replication is available with SRDF, and TimeFinder software. SRDF/Metro offers business continuity with active-active stretched clusters.
    • Protection – ProtectPoint software enables direct backup of volumes from VMAX to Data Domain systems.
    • File access using eNAS data services using CIFS/SMB, NFS and FTP natively.
  • Applications
    • The Dell EMC VMAX is a block storage system for multiple system environments with performance demanding applications such as OLTP and decision support. File based access is available with the eNAS feature.
    • Typical usage for VMAX All Flash is in a Storage Area Network with multiple physical servers attached. With the integral VMware support for VAAI, VASA 2.0, VVOLs, SRM, and vCenter plug-ins, the VMAX is a high performance consolidation platform for VMware virtual machine Datastores.
  • System environments
    • The VMAX is a block storage system accessed using FICON, FC, and iSCSI with standard drivers on host systems. There is a wide range of OS support.
    • File access as a NAS system is supported with access over Ethernet using the eNAS feature.
  • Deployment and Administration
    • Dell EMC service personnel will do installation because of the number of different configuration options. The VMAX can be a complex system based on the configuration and features available. Simplifications have been made to automate much of the process for quick setup.
    • A customer will use the embedded Unisphere in VMAX software for managing the VMAX All Flash System. In addition, Unisphere 360 software is available to aggregate management of up to 200 VMAX systems.  There is a wide range of monitoring and management software available.

Evaluator Group EvaluScale: Dell EMC VMAX All Flash – 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 VMAX All Flash

Dell EMC VMAX All Flash is the all flash version of the popular VMAX system with optimized configurations.  VMAX is primarily a high-end block storage system for mainframe and open systems, except for the smallest VMAX All Flash model, which is open systems only.  NAS capability has been added by running the VNX NAS software internal as another instance/container.  Evaluator Group believes that customers in the high-end enterprise will rarely combine block and file in the same system so, while the VMAX makes this available, it will not be a major requirement or a deciding factor.

As a system that has evolved over time, the VMAX family has 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 expect 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 but still is complex compared to some other solutions.  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 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.


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