EMC banishes the backplane to take Symmetrix virtual

EMC has adopted RapidIO as the new technology to connect its Symmetrix line, as part of a new “architecture” allowing several of the devices to interoperate as a single, virtual, pool of storage.

EMC has announced its “Virtual Matrix Architecture,” a new storage architecture the company says will enable the creation of storage systems reaching “thousands of terabytes of storage and tens of millions of IOPS” in order to support “hundreds of thousands of VMware and other virtual machines in a single federated storage infrastructure.”

To pull off this trick, EMC has abandoned the backplane and Direct Matrix technology featured in previous Symmetrix models, replacing it with a switched protocol called “RapidIO” that the company says will allow 10Gbps between each component of its arrays. RapidIO bills itself as a “high-performance, packet-switched, interconnect technology” (EMC is a member of the RapidIO Trade Association).

Built into a new Symmetrix model, the “V-Max”, the architecture allows several of the new Symmetrix machines to be share resources, themselves becoming a virtual pool of storage.

“Direct Matrix was a peer-to-peer architecture in which every component had a direct connection,” said Glenn Hyatt, an EMC Australia technical consultant. That architecture had physical limitations that mean “it becomes costly and complex when you try to scale the backplane.”

The new architecture, Hyatt said, “doubles the number of ports … and lets us move away from physical limitations.”

EMC told SearchStorage ANZ that the new array and architecture are designed to enable the virtual data centres for the future, yet while the new architecture allows several Symmetrix devices to be linked and treated as a single, logical, pool of storage. It cannot, however, create storage systems spanning multiple sites or incorporating cloud storage services in a single logical construct.

“In the past we have been able to tie multiple frames together to scale,” Hyatt said. Virtual Matrix Architecture does the same thing but, thanks to RapidIO, enables greater scalability.

Current Symmetrix customers do not have a clear upgrade path to the Virtual Matrix Architecture, which is baked into the new Symmetrix line. But Hyatt said that while management tools for the new arrays are improved, all current features are intact and users will not face a steep learning curve to adopt V-Max.

Buyers of the V-Max line, however, will also need to acquire what Hyatt called “a hardware component” to switch Rapid IO packets.

The V-max, available now, also includes:

  • Up to 128 Intel Xeon processor cores

  • Up to 1 TB (terabyte) of global memory

  • Fibre Channel/FICON/Gigabit Ethernet/iSCSI connectivity

  • Latest generation Flash/Fibre Channel/SATA drive support

  • Scale to 2,400 drives

  • Maximum usable, protected capacity of 2 PBs (petabytes)

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