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How EMC is Helping Dell Evolve

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It had been four years since my last EMC World, now Dell EMC World, and I was excited to return.  The event was larger than I remembered.  In fact, it was said that this year’s was the biggest EMC World ever, with approximately 13,500 attendees.  The keynote was the big-budget production I was used to seeing, with the main difference being Michael Dell on stage instead of Joe Tucci. 

A common buzzword during the week was “Transformation”, which was generally broken into these areas:  

  • Digital – Everything is digital these days, leading to an explosive growth of data.  Additionally, companies are moving to cloud consumption of IT, whether it is public, private, hybrid, or some combination of the three.  Many of the announcements concerning new storage and backup products included cloud integrations, if they didn’t exist already. 
  • Workforce – Enabling the mobile workforce was a notable theme.  Employees are now working from anywhere, and on multiple devices – laptops, tablets, phones, etc.   
  • Security – The first two points, coupled with the proliferation of ransomware over the past year, has increased the focus on security.  Multiple sessions focused on this subject. 
  • Infrastructure – Automation and hyper-convergence sparked lots of discussion on making things simpler, more automated, and easier to consume. 

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality (VR/AR) were also hot topics this year, with talk of it becoming the next “billion-user” platform.  While the application to gaming is obvious, the business applications are not as clear.  One use case discussed was employing AR to train new assembly line employees more quickly.  We’ll have to wait and see if other viable corporate use cases emerge.  

As always, there were several storage product announcements at this world conference.  Many of these related to flash in some way.  I’ve highlighted some below: 

Isilon:  Isilon announced a new 4-node, 4U architecture across the family.  A new type of node is the All-Flash F800 node, previously known as “Project Nitro”.  Performance claims include: 

  • 250,000 IOPS and 15GB/S throughput 
  • 92TB to 920TB capacity per chassis 
  • Scaling up to 400 nodes, or 33PB total cluster capacity  

XtremIO X2 – The next generation of XtremIO hardware.  Highlights: 

  • Improved Performance:  Up to 80% better response time due to changes made to how I/O is managed within RAM 
  • Improved Efficiency:  Approximately 25% better data reduction 
  • Scale up and/or out:  Ability to add storage only to a brick only as opposed to buying an additional XBrick 
  • XtremIO Virtual Copies (XVCs):  Dell EMC discovered that across the XtremIO customer base, nearly half of the IOPs are from XVCs - LUNs that are copies of other LUNs.  These may be used for test, dev, QA, or for data protection.  As a result, the maximum number of XVCs has been doubled in the X2 family. 

All of these, combined with the use of cheaper and larger SSDs, should result in the TCO for X2 being as little as 1/3 that of the first generation of XtremIO.  Of course, “mileage” may vary. 

Unity All Flash   All-Flash Unity arrays aren’t new – they’ve been around for almost a year.  This year, new models were introduced.  Main points: 

  • Improved Performance:  Approximately 40% more CPU cores and twice the memory of previous All-Flash models 
  • Dynamic Pools:  The new models use “Mapped RAID”, which allows one to increase pool capacity by a single drive.  Even though Flash is getting cheaper, it can still cost a substantial amount to add capacity, especially if you are doing so in 16 or 9 drive increments. 
  • Larger File systems:  Supports file systems up to 256TB (compared to 64TB previously) 
  • Migration:  Built-in migration tool for VNXà  Unity 

VMAX All Flash  As with Unity, the ALL-Flash VMAX has been released for a while.  The new product announced at Dell EMC world was the 950F—the big dog of the family.  Compared to the previous generation, the new 950F is claimed to be 

  • 25% smaller footprint 
  • 30% better response time 
  • ~25% smaller footprint 

As the price of flash continues to come down and drive capacities increase, we’ll continue to see all-flash configurations becoming more prevalent for everyday workloads.  Spinning disk will remain relevant for longer-term/archive storage, but the days of 10K or 15K drives being the main workhorse in the datacenter are numbered.  Also, with new advances such as NVMe and 3D XPoint, the way flash is implemented today may be relatively short-lived, as well. 

All-in-all, it was an informative conference.  As always with IT, the only constant is change, and the pace is ever increasing.  Since the acquisition of EMC, Dell Technologies now has a major presence in corporate IT beyond laptop/desktop and servers.  It will be interesting to see how Dell Technologies continues to evolve and adapt in order to remain a major player in the ever-changing technology landscape. 

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