Dell updates PowerStore, PowerMax and PowerFlex storage

Dell storage upgrades include improved AIOps, lower energy usage, real-time HA failover, seamless hardware replacement, and enhancements to take advantage of DPU acceleration

Dell has updated its PowerStore and PowerMax arrays and PowerFlex software-defined storage to build in greater proactive maintenance, as well as higher capacities in PowerFlex 4.5, lower energy usage in PowerMaxOS 10.1 and better resilience in PowerStore 3.6.

Core to the improvements in proactive maintenance are systems that produce more verbose logs to inform Dell’s CloudIQ online AI-enabled monitoring and management platform.

“Dell CloudIQ uses these operational and energy usage metrics to provide predictions, notifications and recommendations for corrective action,” said Ben Jastrab, Dell product director, in a blog post.

PowerFlex 4.5: Up to 2,048 VMs in the cloud

Alongside the hardware-focused updates, Dell has expanded its online services, also based on PowerFlex SDS. Here, Apex Block Storage – already made available on AWS this year, has been extended to Azure.

The benefit of Apex Block Storage is that it can combine several hyperscaler storage instances into one and so can increase I/O capacity. When powered by the latest version – PowerFlex 4.5 – an Apex Block Storage service can support 2,048 virtual machines and 512 virtual disks in block mode on AWS or Azure.

PowerFlex can also add file access to block storage that it shares. In this way, the new version of the software-defined storage, in the cloud and on-site, can, “accelerate file access by 5x and multiply snapshots numbers by 22x”, according to Dell, although without specifying what scale is required for this to be attained.

PowerFlex is the software-defined storage that Dell uses for its hyper-converged infrastructure under the same name, although Dell also sells VxRail, which is based on VMware’s vSAN software-defined storage.   

PowerStoreOS 3.6 adds real-time HA failover

In the midrange, PowerStore SAN (block mode) and NAS (file mode) arrays benefit from the new version 3.6 of PowerStoreOS, with four new areas of functionality. The most important is automated high availability storage failover to a secondary site. That failover is managed via management node deployment – called Metro Witness – at a third site.

“The Witness server verifies that state of the two sites and in case of failure triggers the switch to the available array,” said Jastrab. “At that moment, an algorithm runs to decide where to transfer data to maximise its coherence.”

PowerStoreOS 3.6 also brings hot swapping of storage nodes. This function – called Data-In-Place, or DIP – allows for seamless replacement of storage nodes while calculating optimal access routing via the nodes that remain operational.

“The benefit is to relieve maintenance teams, who no longer have to plan complex migrations,” said Jastrab. “However, the fact of being able to replace control nodes independent of disk shelves avoids having to a whole storage array just to gain surplus capacity. That also allows for the latest technologies to be deployed in the datacentre inexpensively.”

The third new feature is the ability to use vVols volumes for VMware VMs from flash storage connected via NVMe-over-TCP. That allows for an IOPS increase of 50% compared to use of iSCSI, and without having to change existing Ethernet connectivity.

Finally, you can set up a sub-network between two arrays to test restore rules in case of an incident.

PowerMaxOS 10.1 will take advantage of DPU acceleration

At the top of the range, PowerMax SAN and NAS arrays, aimed at critical databases, large VM clusters and mainframes, have moved to version 10.1 of their OS. The big benefit of the upgrade has been in energy reduction. According to Dell, for the same number of watts consumed previously, an updated PowerMax array can deliver 2.8x the access.

This upgrade comes 15 months after PowerMaxOS version 10 and allows Dell to exploit the acceleration enabled by Nvidia BlueField DPUs in its PowerMax arrays. Among these improvements, acceleration of 5x for VMs and 3x for mainframes will happen at the DPU and not the processors.

Other functionality related to security has also been upgraded, such as anomaly detection in I/O or encryption of data packets and will be carried out via the TLS 1.3 protocol. However, it is possible to use to an external key system for encryption and decryption. Dell said there is no longer any point in theft of a PowerMax array, although it didn’t explain whether that’s a situation that has actually arisen.

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