Inside EMC's New VNXe Entry-Level Storage Array

Newborn Simplicity

The marriage of EMC's Clariion and Celerra storage lines has resulted in the creation of VNX enterprise storage arrays, and VNXe, a lower-cost series of storage devices aimed at small companies and departments. With features such as high performance, high availability, scalability and snapshot data protection of the high-end systems, VNXe prices start at $9,513 for a terabyte of 15K SAS storage in a 2U enclosure, and at $12,079 with redundancy.

Beyond attractive pricing, EMC also has made strides in ease-of-use. Read on for a guided tour of VNXe's Flex-based setup and maintenance screens.

Driving With The Dashboard

The VNXe's Dashboard displays direct links (at right) to many of the system's most common tasks, such as for storage provisioning for Exchange, Hyper-V and VMware, creation and management of users and roles, and for service and support. The pie chart provides an overview of storage allocation (more on this later), below which is a list of system messages and alerts (currently empty).

The System-Wide System Tab

The system tab is home to system-wide controls such as monitors for health and wellness, allocation of storage pools, performance of storage processors, and system logs and alerts.

Storage-Specific Settings

The storage tab contains links for configuration of storage pools specifically for Exchange, Hyper-V and VMware, as well as for applications using the iSCSI protocol. In addition, VNXe can share folders for clients and servers using CIFS and NFS protocols. Vendor-specific language and terminology are applied wherever possible to simplify set up and use.

Master Of Wizards

Unlike some other devices we've looked at, the wizards in the VNXe actually complete the jobs they set out to perform. What's more, they hide most of the complexities from novice administrators (an "advanced administrator" role can see and override them). For example, provisioning an Exchange Storage Server took just seven clicks, and the only values to input were the number of users, and whether to enable thin provisioning and snapshots. When applicable, default values are equal to industry best practices.

More Settings

The settings tab is for administration of network, iSCSI, CIFS, NFS configuration, as well as for changes to default language and other user preferences. The user also can update system firmware and manage licensing here.

Help In Many Forms

The support offers help and training in many forms, including videos and other online training, a community page, complete system documentation and live chat. The VNXe purchase price includes live 5/9 chat support for one year.

Scheduled Snapshots

Every VNXe also includes data protection through local snapshots, which can be scheduled and rotated out as they pile up. Storage is protected by default, but individual resources can be set not to backup as desired. Scheduling can be as granular as desired or can default to industry best practices.

No Wedge Issue

Accessed through the system tab, the storage pie is a quick and easy way to evaluate the resources that are being used by the system at a given time, as well as how much is free and available to be allocated. A utilization summary is displayed under the color key at left.

Round And Round

Among the standout features of the VNXe is its carousel, so-called for its rotating array image. As components are clicked inside the list at left, the corresponding component is visualized in the large pane at right along with its specs and device-specific details in the window below. Healthy components are encased in green. But as for unhealthy components...

Critical Health Warning

...Unhealthy components are encased in yellow and failed ones (like the one shown) in red. In this case, a bubble appears (upper right) with a critical health alert and offers hot-links to context-sensitive help (lower right) and support options and knowledge base. There's also an option to order a replacement part, which links to an order form populated with the component's part number and other customer data. Well done, EMC.

To read more about EMC's VNXe storage arrays, including technical specifications and more pricing, please read the CRN Test Center's full review.