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Dell EMC VMAX3 – Product Brief

Last updated December 21st, 2018 for annual review and updates. Concise and unbiased 10-page overview of the features and functionality of Dell EMC VMAX3. Download the free Product Brief now!

Overview

The Dell EMC VMAX³ continues the evolution of Dell EMC’s high-end enterprise storage system originally known as Symmetrix with architectural changes and additional capabilities compared to the prior VMAX system.  Major advances include the embedded operating environment called HYPERMAX, use of InfiniBand for interconnect technology, ProtectPoint for direct backup of volumes, 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 VMAX³ are available with differences in the number of engines, DRAM cache, connectivity, and capacity scaling.   As with earlier versions, VMAX³ supports IBM mainframe environments, open systems, and IBM System i.  The models range from the single enclosure VMAX³ 100K up to the VMAX³ 400K with up to 5,760 2.5” devices.

The foundation of the VMAX³ is the Virtual Matrix Architecture utilizing the VMAX³ Engine as the core element.  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 engine to an aggregate up to eight engines in the largest model.  Each VMAX³ engine contains two directors, cross-director communication path linking them and redundant interfaces to the Virtual Matrix Interconnect.  Each director consolidates front-end, global memory, and back-end functions, enabling direct memory access to data.

HYPERMAX, the embedded operating environment for VMAX³, is a storage hypervisor providing internal virtual machines for running functional elements such as block storage, management, data protection, and other future advanced capabilities.

All VMAX³ models support virtualization of third party storage and other Dell EMC storage with a feature called FAST.X.  Other VMAX³ features are available for volumes on the attached external storage.  An additional integrity check, VMAX³ add an additional integrity check called T10DIF to external volumes called eDisks created by VMAX³ on the external systems.

VMAX³ enables direct backup of data with the optional software feature ProtectPoint. With ProtectPoint, agents on application servers allow application administrators to direct the VMAX³ system to backup volumes directly to a Data Domain system.  The VMAX³ 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 VMAX³ to restore a volume or a specific object in a volume and VMAX³ 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 VMAX³.  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.  Service Level Objective settings are incorporated into the virtual provisioning and storage tiering (FAST) capabilities.

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 VMAX³.  In addition, VMAX³ is a candidate storage system for private cloud environments with the self-service features incorporated into the system.  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 VMAX³ is the flagship system from Dell EMC and has high performance design characteristics. Dell EMC does not publish performance data but customers should expect it to be one of the higher performing block storage systems.  Dell EMC will quote their own performance test data.
    • Availability – The VMAX³ 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 RecoverPoint, SRDF, and TimeFinder software. RecoverPoint can replicate to VMAX, VNX, and heterogeneous storage systems. SRDF/Metro offers business continuity with active-active stretched clusters.
    • Protection – ProtectPoint software enables direct backup of volumes from VMAX³ to Data Domain systems.
    • File access using eNAS data services.
  • Applications
    • The Dell EMC VMAX³ is a block storage system for multiple system environments with performance demanding applications such as OLTP and decision support.
    • Typical usage for VMAX³ 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 VMAX³ would be a high performance consolidation platform for VMware virtual machine Datastores.
  • System environments
    • The VMAX³ is a block storage system accessed using FICON, FC, FCoE, 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.
  • Deployment and Administration
    • Dell EMC service personnel will do installation because of the number of different configuration options. The VMAX³ can be a complex system based on the configuration and features available but has been greatly simplified with many of the tasks automated.
    • A customer will use the standard Dell EMC Unisphere for VMAX software for managing the VMAX³. There is a wide range of monitoring and management software available.

Evaluator Group EvaluScale: Dell EMC VMAX³ – 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 VMAX³

Dell EMC VMAX³ is primarily a high-end block storage system for mainframe and open systems.  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.

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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