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Dell EMC Expects New PowerMax, Refreshed XtremIO X2 All-flash Arrays To Help Arrest Storage Sales Slip

The new PowerMax line with NVMe support and real-time machine learning, along with upgraded software and a lower price on the XtremIO X2 lines, could be boost the Dell EMC all-flash storage business needs to regrow market share.

Dell EMC on Tuesday refreshed two of its high-performance all-flash storage lines, with the flagship VMAX, now known as PowerMax, going full speed ahead thanks to the adoption of NVMe technology, and the XtremIO X2 line gaining a new lower-cost entry point.

The refresh of the two all-flash storage array families was unveiled at the Dell Technologies World, held this week in Las Vegas.

The major enhancement to Dell EMC's all-flash storage array portfolio comes at a time when that portfolio has lost market share over the past year.

[Related: Dell EMC Launches All-Flash Storage Barrage]

While Dell EMC is still the leading vendor of all flash arrays, with a market share of 29.0 percent during the fourth quarter of 2017, that is down year-over-year from a market share of 38.2 percent, according to an April report published by Wells Fargo Securities citing its own and IDC data.

That drop in market share was caused by a year-over-year 16.2-percent fall in sales of the Dell EMC VMAX flagship line along with a 16.2-percent drop in XtremIO revenue, Wells Fargo Securities reported.

Sam Grocott, senior vice president of marketing for Dell EMC's Infrastructure Solutions group, told CRN that he is unable at this time to discuss actual sales figures for specific product lines.

Grocott also said he has not seen that particular report, and that the Dell EMC numbers cited in the report do not reflect the actual market situation in part because of a change how the company marks its financial quarters.

"And remember, we are the leading all-flash storage vendor," he said. "Our market share is higher than our top two competitors' combined."

Dell EMC's new PowerMax all-flash array, formerly known as the VMAX line, is a complete architecture refresh of the prior offerings built from the ground-up to be ready for the latest storage media technologies including the new NVMe flash storage and future server-class memory, Grocott said.

It is targeted at next-generation applications such as real-time analytics, genomics, artificial intelligence, IoT, and mobile applications, he said.

Key to the new PowerMax is the fact that it was designed for industry-standard, not proprietary, components including NVMe media, he said.

Other vendors are using proprietary NVMe components, he said. "We believe that will take them off the innovation path as industry-standard components get enhanced," he said.

The PowerMax also represents Dell EMC's first entry in the implementation of machine learning to improve performance and provide proactive system health monitoring, Grocott. The company is approaching machine learning in the PowerMax in two ways.

First, the new PowerMaxOS storage operating system takes advantage of years of performance and maintenance data collected from the VMAX installed base. Second, it takes advantage of real-time data within the array itself.

"By leveraging both, the PowerMax can make decisions about what data or block goes on what tier of storage to free up the high-performance tiers," he said. "It's leveraging over 40 million data sets, and gets smarter from the first read-write-put-get operation."

The PowerMax is available in two models.

The PowerMax 2000 scales to up to 1 petabyte of effective capacity across two "PowerBricks" after in-line deduplication and compression, and offers up to 1.7 million IOPs of performance, Grocott said.

The PowerMax 8000 scales to up to 4 petabytes of effective capacity across eight PowerBricks, with up to 10 million IOPs of performance, he said.

The PowerMax is scheduled to ship next week, he said.

Also new from Dell EMC is the latest version of the XtremIO X2, the current iteration of the company's XtremIO all-flash storage array.

The new version of the XtremIO X2 adds native replication, Grocott said. It is data-aware asynchronous replication which only sends changes to the data set to the remote site to cut bandwidth requirements by up to 75 percent with no impact to the performance, he said. The replication process can be initiated with only three steps, he said.

The new XtremIO X2 is priced at a 55-percent lower entry price point than the original XtremIO family on a per-gigabyte basis, Grocott said.

The addition of NVMe makes is a huge enhancement to Dell EMC's flagship storage offering, said Michael Tanenhaus, principal at Mavenspire, an Annapolis, Md.-based solution provider and long-time Dell EMC channel partner.

"The VMAX's competitive difference is that it is indestructible," Tanenhaus told CRN. "Now the PowerMax is indestructible and ultra-fast. Anyone in the trade knows SSDs are a stepping stone to performance. NVMe is a part of the natural progression."

The enhancements to the XtremIO X2 seem to be the latest in the logical progression to the product line, Tanenhaus said. When the XtremIO was first introduced a year ago, the key changes were in the software to provide a host of new storage services to the line, he said.

"If it's just performance someone wants, any vendor can provide that," he said. "But if you want low-latency file storage, go with XtremIO X2. Having all the data services makes this offering more firmly entrenched in the data center than if it were just a question of speed."

XtremIO X2 offers a landing zone on which channel partners can expand their clients' data center infrastructures, Tanenhaus said.

"If you can assign two or more workloads to XtremIO X2, it will work well and give partners a platform on which to expand," he said. "Once people understand it, they will want to do more. And XtremIO X2 scales well."

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