Most recently, our company introduced a new product - Dell EMC PowerStore . It is a versatile platform with a performance-oriented design that provides multi-dimensional scalability, continuous data reduction (compression and deduplication) and support for next-generation media. PowerStore uses microservice architecture, advanced storage technology and integrated machine learning.

It is about this device that we want to tell you in detail - there is so far little information and, hopefully, getting it first hand will be not only pleasant, but also useful. In today's post we will go over the key properties and features of the solution, and in the following we will dive deeper into the technical details and development issues.

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Benefits of the new storage systems:


  • Modern microservice architecture . The system is based on container architecture, when individual OS components are allocated to separate microservices. Microservice architecture provides portability of functions and rapid implementation of new functionality. This architecture allows you to quickly adapt previously written functionality to a new platform because microservices are autonomous and do not affect each other, microservice architecture allows for higher reliability of the entire system compared to a monolithic architecture. For example, updating the microcode often affects only individual modules, and not the entire system (or its core) and, as a result, runs more smoothly.
  • Use advanced storage technology . Support for Storage Class Memory (SCM) Intel Optane and NVMe All-Flash eliminates bottlenecks in the system and significantly increase performance and reduce system response time.
  • Continuous data reduction on the fly . Always included data compression and deduplication mechanisms allow you to reduce the amount of data occupied within the system and optimize storage. This allows you to reduce the cost of acquisition and operation of the system and increase work efficiency.
  • Flexible scalability of the solution . The Dell EMC PowerStore solution architecture supports both vertical and horizontal scaling, so you can effectively plan your infrastructure expansion by expanding capacity or computing resources independently.
  • Built-in data protection mechanisms . PowerStore systems have a wide range of built-in data protection mechanisms - from snapshots and replication to data encryption and integration with antivirus programs. The system also integrates widely with external solutions, both from Dell Technologies and from other manufacturers.
  • AppsON . Thanks to the VMware ESX hypervisor integrated into the system, customers can run custom virtual machines directly inside the system.
  • Integration with VMware . PowerStore is designed for deep integration with VMware vSphere. Integration includes support for VAAI and VASA, event notifications, snapshot management, vVols, and the discovery and monitoring of virtual machines in PowerStore Manager.
  • Unified Data Access . PowerStore provides storage of application data in various formats, from physical and virtual volumes to containers and traditional files due to the ability to work on a variety of protocols - block, file and VMware vSphere Virtual Volumes (vVols). This ability provides high flexibility of the system and allows IT departments to simplify and consolidate the infrastructure.
  • A simple, modern management interface . The system management interface - PowerStore Manager - was developed based on the requirements of our customers for ease of system management. This is a web-based interface that runs on PowerStore controllers. It is accessible via the HTML5 protocol and does not require the installation of additional plug-ins.
  • Programmable Infrastructure .Simplifies application development and reduces deployment time from a few days to a few seconds by integrating with VMware and supporting leading management and orchestration environments, including Kubernetes, Ansible, and VMware vRealize Orchestrator.
  • Intelligent Automation . Built-in machine learning algorithms automate time-consuming workflows such as initial planning and placement of volumes, data migration, load balancing and troubleshooting
  • Analytical Infrastructure Information . Dell EMC CloudIQ storage monitoring and analysis software combines the benefits of machine learning and human intelligence for real-time system performance and capacity analysis as well as historical data storage to provide a unified view of the Dell EMC infrastructure. Dell Technologies plans to integrate CloudIQ with its full portfolio of solutions for even deeper analytics.

The platform is represented by two types of systems:

  1. PowerStore T - acts as a classic storage.
  2. PowerStore X - acts as a hyperconverged solution that allows you to run customer virtual machines, combined with a dedicated, classic storage.

With the integrated capabilities of VMware ESXi, PowerStore X models provide the ability to host intensive I/O applications directly inside a PowerStore system. Using the built-in VMware (vMotion) mechanisms, you can move applications between the PowerStore storage system and external solutions. The VMware ESXi embedded hypervisor launches customer applications along with the PowerStore operating system as VMware virtual machines. This innovative design is ideal for high-volume storage applications, providing additional computing and high-performance storage for your existing environment or any scenario in which density, performance, and availability are key factors.

Clear examples of when AppsON ideally solves the tasks of our customers are:

  • Dedicated infrastructure for a single application. For example, for a database that requires a dedicated server, storage, as well as some additional binding, for example, for backup. In this case, you can buy one single PowerStore system that closes all tasks, because the application itself and the backup server can be deployed within the PowerStore node without the need for additional infrastructure.
  • ROBO (remote branches and offices). Many customers are faced with the task of some kind of replicating the infrastructure of the main data center to the periphery in order to ensure the operation of remote branches of their companies. Previously, I had to buy separate servers, storage, switches for their connection, as well as puzzle over how to protect the infrastructure and, most importantly, data. We propose, as in the previous example, to take the path of consolidating the infrastructure within one solution - Dell EMC PowerStore. You will get a complete infrastructure within the 2U chassis, consisting of a pair of fault-tolerant servers connected to high-speed storage.

Both types of systems are presented in the form of a line of models with different technical characteristics:

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An important feature of PowerStore systems is the ability to upgrade an already purchased system in the future. Here's how to do it.

  • The traditional upgrade of younger models to older ones allows you to avoid unnecessary investments at the stage of purchasing the system: there is no need to immediately buy an expensive solution, the potential of which will be fully revealed only in a few years. The upgrade procedure is a regular replacement of some controllers with others; it is performed without stopping access to data.
  • Thanks to the right architecture, the system can be upgraded to a new generation , which will keep it up to date and extend the life of the device.
  • There is a way to make it possible to upgrade the system at the procurement stage . There is a special option Anytime Upgrade , which allows you to either update the system by upgrading it to a new generation, or upgrade the system to an older and more productive model.

Licensing


The Dell EMC PowerStore is licensed under the All Inclusive model. The customer receives all the available functionality along with the system without additional investment. As the array’s new functionality becomes available, it will also become available to customers after upgrading the microcode.

Optimize the physical volume of data


Dell EMC PowerStore includes several methods to increase storage efficiency by reducing the physical volume used by data:

  • subtle allocation of space;
  • compression - has a hardware implementation and is performed using a separate physical chip, as a result of which the process does not affect system performance;
  • data deduplication - allows not to store only unique data, without repetitions.

Dynamic Pools


The Dell EMC PowerStore is equipped with extents-based RAID to handle disk failures. A large number of RAID elements represents a single logical space that forms the pool with which the end user works.

Dynamic RAID architecture provides 5 key benefits:

  • Reducing recovery time after a disk failure by parallel recovery from multiple disks;
  • even distribution of write requests to all discs;
  • the ability to mix disks of different sizes in one pool;
  • the ability to expand the system capacity by adding one or more disks;
  • the ability to abandon a physically allocated hot spare disk allows the system to rebuild data blocks using all healthy disks.

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High availability


Storage Dell EMC PowerStore is fully fail-safe and includes a number of high availability methods. These methods are designed to counter component failures in the system and in the external infrastructure, such as network outages or power outages. If an individual component fails, the storage system continues to serve the data. A system can also withstand multiple failures if they occur in separate sets of components. After the administrator receives a notification of a failure, he can order and replace the failed component without consequences.

NVMe SCM


Storage Class Storage Media SCM (Storage Class Memory) is a high-performance, non-volatile drive based on Intel Optane technology. NVMe SCM drives have lower latency and improved performance compared to other SSDs. NVMe is a protocol that allows access directly via the PCIe bus. NVMe is designed for low latency high-performance media. NVMe SCM drives serve as a storage tier for PowerStore and are used for user data or metadata. Volumes of 375 and 750 GB are currently available.

NVMе NVRAM


NVMe NVRAMs are high-performance drives used to improve the PowerStore caching system. They are available from both system controllers and allow the system to easily cache incoming entries. The drives run at PCIe DRAM speeds for exceptional performance. Their design allows them to function as non-volatile media, and the PowerStore can quickly save incoming records and confirm operations to the host without notifying the second controller.Data storages are installed in pairs to mirror data between each other in the event of a hardware failure.

This approach allowed to significantly speed up the storage system:

  • firstly, controllers do not need to spend their CPU cycles on synchronizing cache data with each other;
  • secondly, all recording to the drives takes place in a 2 MB block, because the system backs up this amount of data before writing data to disks. Thus, the record from random turned into sequential. As you yourself understand, this approach significantly reduces the load on the data warehouses and the controllers themselves.

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Clustering


Each Dell EMC PowerStore device is deployed as one of the cluster nodes, because clustering is part of the architecture of this platform. Currently, no more than four PowerStore nodes can be combined into a single cluster. When deploying a cluster with multiple devices, you can complete this task during the initial setup process or add devices to an existing cluster in the future. You can reduce the PowerStore cluster by removing devices from an existing cluster, effectively dividing one large cluster into two smaller ones.

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Clustering Dell EMC PowerStore devices offers many benefits.

  • Scale-Out scaling to increase the amount of system resources by adding additional computing nodes - processor, memory, capacity and host connection interfaces.
  • Independently increase storage or compute resources.
  • Centralized management of a multi-node cluster.
  • Automatic load balancing between cluster nodes.
  • Increased reliability and resiliency.

PowerStore Manager


PowerStore Manager provides storage administrators with a simple and intuitive interface for configuring and managing the cluster. It is based on HTML5, does not require the installation of additional software on the client and helps to perform the following tasks:

  • Initial setup of a new PowerStore.
  • Add or remove nodes from an existing cluster.
  • Cluster Resource Management.

The cluster capacity is the aggregation of capacities of individual cluster nodes. Savings statistics are available for the entire cluster.

To balance the load between the cluster nodes, a balancer is provided, the task of which is to monitor the utilization of individual cluster components and help in automatic or manual data migration between cluster nodes. The migration procedure is transparent for servers and is performed in hardware, without involving server resources.

Instead of a conclusion


This concludes the short story about Dell EMC PowerStore . In this article, we examined the main points related to technology and economics that you need to understand when planning the purchase of PowerStore systems - from clustering to licensing and planning for future upgrades. Many technical points were left behind the scenes, and we will be happy to tell you about them either in the following articles, or when communicating with the specialists of the sales department.

In conclusion, I want to note that the first systems sold have already been deployed in the data centers of our customers, distributors and partners have purchased demo systems and are ready to show them to you. If the system aroused your interest, feel free to contact our partners and representatives to develop your projects.

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