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EMC federates Symmetrix controllers in virtual matrix

Keanu Reeves to allegedly play Joe Tucci in film

EMC is announcing a V-Max top-end Symmetrix architecture and product that federates potentially hundreds of controllers across a RapidIO fabric, forming a virtual matrix and scaling to support hundreds of petabytes, thousands of virtual servers, and millions of IOPS.

The Symmetrix V-Max product will co-exist with the current DMX-4 (Direct Matrix Architecture) Symmetrix and not replace it, according to Bob Wambach, EMC's senior director for storage platform marketing. He said it was the first storage architecture that combines the performance and efficiency of a scale-up architecture and the cost-effective flexibility of a scale-out architecture.

It has been designed for a world of mass data centres and server virtualisation, one where storage workloads, like server workloads, rise and fall and get moved from one storage platform to another to solve access hot-spot problems. It would also be likely to follow data life-cycles and move the data from fast, through mid-speed, to high-capacity, low-speed bulk storage automatically.

It also seems designed for private cloud environments where scale and speed of storage are going to be paramount.

EMC has designed a basic V-Max building block or engine, constructed from commodity components. It is comprised of multiple, redundant, 2.3GHz quad-Xeon-based storage processors (controllers), 16 host server and 16 disk I/O ports, mirrored global memory, Enginuity storage operating system, and virtual matrix interconnect. Customers can start with one of these and grow to eight of them. In a later release of the product, the number of V-Max engines will scale much more, with hundreds being mentioned by Wambach.

The RapidIO interconnect, an alternative to InfiniBand, enables the V-Max engines to be up to 100m apart and communicate with high speed (10gigE and beyond in the future) and low-latency. EMC has joined the RapidIO association steering committee.

Wambach said that the classic current high-end storage array relies on controllers being close to, and integrated with backplanes, which limits their scalability. A federated V-Max will support tens of thousands of disk drives, hundreds of thousands of virtual servers, hundreds of thousands of terabytes, and millions of I/Os per second (IOPS).

V-Max will support three tiers of storage: EMC's tier 0 Enterprise Flash Drives; tier 1 Fibre Channel disk drives; and tier 2 SATA drives for high-capacity storage.

The entry-level V-Max SE, starting in a single bay or rack and expandable to two, offers from 48 to 360 disks, and a single V-Max engine with up to 128GB of global memory, 24GB/sec of virtual matrix bandwidth, and two Director-pairs. (A Director consolidates front-end, global memory, and back-end functions, enabling direct memory access to data for optimised I/O operations.) It has 4Gbit/s FICON, 4Gbit/s Fibre Channel, iSCSI and gigabit Ethernet connectivity. There is no native FCoE access, with Wambach saying EMC will offer that if the market demands it. He said 8Gbit/s Fibre Channel will come later.

The mainstream V-Max, classed as the world's largest high-end storage array, starts in a 2-bay configuration and is expandable to many more. It supports from one to eight V-Max engines with up to 128 processor cores and 1TB of global memory. There can be from 48 to 2,400 disks, meaning a maximun of 2PB of capacity, 128 host ports and 128 back-end storage enclosure connections to the flash, Fibre Channel or SATA drives.

The V-Max engines connect and share their consolidated resources across the RapidIO-based virtual matrix, with any engine able to talk to any other engine. Compared to the DMX-4, V-Max offers three times more front-end and back-end IOPS, three times more capacity - four times larger volumes at 256GB, twice as many hyper volumes (512) and twice as much connectivity.

For the virtual server world it offers 80 per cent faster provisioning with auto-provisioning groups and, EMC says, a twenty-fold increase in data mobility with thousands of virtual LUNS able to be migrated simultaneously. Local replication is three times faster too.

A way has been devised to improve two site disaster recovery with asynchronous replication between their V-Max arrays. The primary site synchronously stores I/Os to the main V-Max in a separate box, while the data writes are asynchronously copied to the remote V-Max by SRDF/EDP. If the primary site V-Max goes down, the I/Os are copied to the remote site and recovery is thus improved, with all the disk I/Os since the last asynch data transfer now being available to update the secondary V-Max. This is called zero data-loss asynchronous replication.

EMC says its V-Max also uses 20 per cent less power per TB of data.

EMC says it will next deliver a capability called FAST (Fully Automated Storage Tiering) to automate the movement and placement of data of storage tiers within V-Max. This will be needed to provide the auto-provisioning needed to make provisioning virtual servers - VMware or Hyper-V - very much simpler. Non-disruptive data movement can be driven by policies, such as reacting to particular real-time access patterns in the array, by external events such as a time-based schedule, or by a predictive algoritm.

EMC ControlCenter support for both the Symmetrix V-Max storage system and VMware will increase visibility and automate reporting across the virtual server and storage environments.

V-Max, EMC says, will offer a high degree of self-management, enabling sysadmins to manage much more storage capacity than before. It will also offer many more IOPS per dollar and consume less energy per terabyte stored. It will integrate very well with virtual server and virtual data centre management schemes.

EMC is also pleased to point out that while competitors such as HDS and IBM have continued to use their USP and DS8000 high-end storage array architectures, it has designed two newer ones; the DMX-4 and now V-Max. It says this demonstrates more energy and commitment to customers' high-end storage needs. EMC chairman and CEO Joe Tucci called V-Max "the biggest breakthrough in new high-end storage design in nearly two decades."

The Symmetric V-Max product is available immediately. No pricing information was revealed. ®

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