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EMC VNX Goodies Sprouting Up this Spring

Back in January when EMC announced the VNX platform, I wrote a brief blog post for those customers who had purchased a CX4 in the 2nd half of 2010 (http://bit.ly/knqCqT). At the time, I advised that although the VNX is certainly an impressive platform, there’s no reason to fret about what you purchased. Here’s a recap of that post:

  1. The first batch of VNX didn’t ship until the end of January and supplies were tight and it takes time to implement an array after ordering (4-6 weeks). Therefore, most folks would have had trouble meeting go-live deadlines if they waited for something that hadn’t even been announced.
  2. The CX4 and NS platform will remain a viable shipping platform well into 2011 (that’s still the case).
  3. The CX4 was built on a long-standing architecture that is proven and reliable. While there’s been no indication of too many VNX Gen1 troubles, if you can’t take a chance with the first batch out the door, better to stick with the proven workhorse.
  4. VNX was based on the same software enhancements released in late 2010 on the CX4 in FLARE 30 and DART 6.0 on NS platforms.
  5. No need to worry about FC drive supply running out – they’ll be around for a long time.

What EMC announced today at Day 2 of EMC World gives us some insight into new enhancements coming for the VNX platform, and although it wasn’t explicitly stated, it’s safe to assume many enhancements going forward won’t be showing up on the CX4 or NS platform. Here they are (with greater detail available from Chad Sakac’s blog: http://bit.ly/msr7Hs):

  1. High-bandwidth array. It appears this is an I/O module update giving you more 4-lane 6Gb/sec SAS backend ports.
  2. 2U 25 slot 2.5″ Disk Array Enclosures (DAE’s). These supported 10K drives only but now will support SSD’s including cheaper MLC flash (this will be great for increasing Flash adoption and we’ll probably see multiple tiers of Flash SLC and MLC within the same box).
  3. High-density DAE (60 slots). This requires a special high-density rack. There is a CX4 option available for this as well, though not quite as dense.
  4. Easy-to-use Appliction Provisioning Wizards from the customized VNXe version of Unisphere will now be included in the full VNX version of Unisphere. Curious to see if these make their way back to FLARE30/DART 6 Unisphere 1.0 systems. I could see this being important for smaller VNX5300 customers that needed a bit more oomph than what VNXe could offer, but the admins wear a lot of hats and don’t have time to be a full-time SAN admin.
  5. Cloud Tiering Appliance for VNX Networked File Systems. This looks akin to the old Rainfinity FMA, but instead of tiering to SATA or Centera, you tier out to a Cloud storage provider.
  6. Google Search Appliance integration with VNX NAS file systems.
  7. Full Replication Manager integration into Unisphere. I’m also curious to see if this will be retro-active for CX4 customers.

Are any of these absolute must-have’s for the average customer? Not really, although I’m sure they are must-haves for certain niches. So, while these are some goodies that will primarily be for VNX customers only with exceptions, there’s still no reason to fret that you missed out on anything big when you purchased a CX/NS last year.

Now, what I’m really waiting for and I’m sure several other folks are as well is a reduced “chunk” size for FAST VP auto-tiering. Currently, the tiering is done based on 1GB chunks, which will hopefully be cut-down significantly for greater efficiency. The other key capability will be mixed RAID types in the same storage pool. This will eliminate the need for customers to create a separate pool for logs on RAID 1/0, while everything else sits on RAID5. Another use-case that needs to be fixed is for a customer who wants a pool based on RAID 5, but is utilizing 2TB high-capacity drives for tiering that typically are recommended to be used with RAID 6 protection. The smaller your auto-tiering chunk, the more meta-data there is to keep track of in the system. Therefore, I would theorize this enhancement will only appear on VNX (should it ever appear), specifically because of increased CPU and RAM available on that platform.

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