EMC VMAX3 Array Runs Server Apps, Gets Cloud Tiering Via TwinStrata Acquisition

In a move that could significantly shake up the way data centers are architected, EMC Tuesday updated its flagship VMAX storage solution with new software and a new storage hypervisor that could potentially allow it to run non-storage applications.

EMC, Hopkinton, Mass., also is planning to embed cloud storage access into its VMAX arrays via technology it got from TwinStrata, a provider of cloud tiering technology that EMC Tuesday said it had acquired. Financial details of EMC's acquisition of TwinStrata were not provided.

EMC also updated its EMC Isilon scale-out solution with new performance and scalability capabilities, and added new configurations and data services capabilities to its XtremIO all-flash storage arrays.

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The new EMC VMAX3 now comes with the ability to dynamically allocate up to 384 Intel Ivy Bridge processor cores between different front-end and back-end applications, as well as a new operating system that allows applications to run inside the storage system instead of on a separate server.

The result is a storage solution with the potential to be a very high-end hyper-converged infrastructure, said Jamie Shepard, regional and health systems senior vice president at Lumenate, a Dallas-based solution provider and longtime EMC channel partner.

"The VMAX3 is awesome," Shepard told CRN. "I can use the engines as CPUs and run VMware direct in VMAX, therefore using it as a server."

The enhancements to the VMAX3 would make it possible to leverage VMware's automation technology to use the storage solution CPUs as raw processors, he said.

"This is hyper-converged infrastructure," Shepard said. "Customers could end up buying fewer high-end servers. It provides easy management and the ability to tier data and workloads."

It also points to the future of a new data center architecture where server and storage architectures merge, Shepard said.

"Once EMC's VMAX3 does it, other vendors will follow suit," he said.

Shepard also said that EMC's acquisition of TwinStrata is a huge move given that every major storage vendor and customer is looking for ways to easily migrate storage between private and public cloud storage.

The tying of local on-premise storage to public clouds got its first real start with NetApp's move to add a direct connection between its Data Ontap operating system and Amazon Web Services, and the entire industry is looking to make similar moves, Shepard said.

By adding TwinStrata to VMAX3, EMC is letting customers do cloud tiering directly with the array, Shepard said.

NEXT: VMAX3 Adds Dynamic Virtual Matrix, Hypermax To Run Storage Apps Without Servers

"This is the missing piece," Shepard said. "Business will not go all or nothing to the public cloud. I love it. This is addressing that in-between platform where people will be living for a long time."

Barry Ader, vice president of marketing for EMC's VMAX and VNX product lines, said during a pre-recorded presentation for the press that VMAX3 eliminates the need for customers to choose between the control and trust offered by centralized IT and the agility and scalability offered by self-service IT.

Key to understanding the possibilities is the storage array's new Dynamic Virtual Matrix, which dynamically allocates up to 384 Intel Ivy Bridge processor cores between front-end applications, back-end data access and processing needed to run storage services, Ader said.

"So now, as an example, if increased storage services is needed for certain applications like data warehousing, we can move processing cores to the back end," he said. "If more front-end power is required, such as for online transaction processing-type applications, we can move resources there. [It's] a performance benefit that is workload-dependent. The first and only in the industry."

The Dynamic Virtual Matrix architecture also works with the new EMC Hypermax converged storage hypervisor and operating system to add agility to the data center by allowing cloud access, data mobility and application services to run directly in the array, Ader said.

"With the Hypermax operating system, we have created a system, a platform, that allows these services to run inside the VMAX. ... Now we can embed these other services and consolidate that entire infrastructure to the VMAX platform," he said. "The storage and the server infrastructure [combined]. That's consolidation. That's Hypermax."

EMC Hypermax is not based on VMware's hypervisor technology, an EMC spokesperson told CRN via email. Instead, it supports a Linux hypervisor and emulates an off-the-shelf Intel server, leveraging Intel’s virtualization features to provide data services via a direct, low-latency connection to the VMAX3.

As such, Hypermax is less suited to run general-purpose virtual machines than other hypervisors, the spokesperson said.

EMC also introduced EMC ProtectPoint, a new data protection application that allows data to be directly backed up from the VMAX to an EMC Data Domain backup appliance without the need for a server in the middle, Ader said.

EMC ProtectPoint was designed from the ground up specifically to provide integration between VMAX3 and Data Domain, but over time will support other platforms, the EMC spokesperson said.

NEXT: EMC Also Updates Isilon With Big Data, Gives XtremIO New Data Services

Tuesday was a busy day for EMC, which in addition to the VMAX3 news also unveiled enhancements to its Isilon scale-out file storage platform and its XtremIO all-flash storage line.

EMC updated its EMC Isilon OneFS file system with what it termed an enterprise-grade, scale-out "data lake." EMC defines a data lake as a highly scalable repository for storing data from multiple sources, including both traditional and next-generation workloads, and then making that data available through multiple mechanisms without the need to manage multiple storage silos.

With the new version of the Isilon OneFS software, two new Isilon platforms can handle petabytes of big data that can be accessed via such services as NFS (Network File System), SMB (Server Message Block), NDMP (Network Domain Management Protocol), HDFS (Hadoop File Services), EMC ViPR software-defined storage, and OpenStack Swift object storage for use in analytics, cloud, and mobile file sync and share applications.

Along with the new Isilon OneFS, EMC said it is working with Pivotal, an organization spun out of EMC to develop cloud and big data technology, to natively integrate HDFS for big data analytics as the new Data Lake Hadoop Bundle.

VCE, a joint venture between EMC and Cisco, Tuesday also unveiled a new scale-out solution with Isilon for big data analytics.

On the XtremIO all-flash array side, EMC Tuesday unveiled a new entry-level configuration , the Starter X-Brick, that the company said offers the same performance and data services of its standard XtremIO nodes but can be purchased with as little as 5 TB of flash storage capacity vs. 10 TB or 20 TB for standard X-Bricks. Up to six XtremIO X-Bricks can now be clustered together vs. the previous four.

EMC also added space-efficient snapshot capabilities for both the data and the metadata stored on XtremIO X-Bricks, as well as data at rest encryption. Later this quarter, EMC plans to add inline compression, allowing a six-node cluster to deliver petascale flash storage, the company said.

In addition, EMC rolled out new all-flash storage versions of its VNX midrange storage line that provide up to 138 TB of usable flash in a 3U enclosure with pricing as low as less than $5 per usable GB of capacity. The new VNX arrays are available now, with a new high-density version planned for the fourth quarter.