Dell’s PowerStore OS is even more nimble as it hits the big 3.0 – Blocks and Files

Sponsored Feature Very few people in the software world today would argue that “monoliths” are the best way to deliver new functionality or match your company’s growth trajectory.

It can be difficult to completely ignore a legacy database or ERP system. But whether or not you’re tied to an aging, much-needed application, most organizations’ software roadmaps focus on microservices and containers, with developers using continuous delivery and integration to ensure a steady stream of incremental, sometimes drastic improvements for both users and customers.

This marks an increasingly marked contrast with the world of infrastructure, particularly in terms of storage. Yes, relatively modern storage systems will have some inherent scalability. You can probably add more or bigger disks, but sometimes within arbitrary limits. And new features eventually arrive, usually in the form of major operating system or hardware upgrades. You just have to be patient, that’s all.

Unfortunately, patience is rare in the world of technology. Modern applications involving analytics or machine learning always demand more data, in record time. So far, adding disks, or even appliances, to existing systems can only fill the gap. And manually adjusting systems for changing workloads is hardly a real-time solution.

Large-scale pull-and-replace refreshes are a distraction from innovation activity at best. At worst, they will freeze it or completely destroy it as infrastructure teams struggle to integrate disparate systems with different components and processes. Changing architecture may involve learning entirely new tools. More perilously, it can mean complicated migrations, which can put data at risk.

Any respite is likely to be temporary as software – and customer – demands increase rapidly. Oh, and while all of this is happening, these squeaky systems and the data they contain are a tempting target for ransomware gangs and cybercriminals.

That’s why Dell, with the launch of its PowerStore architecture in 2020, re-engineered the way it builds a storage operating system and its underlying hardware to deliver incremental scalability and scalability. At the time, Dell’s portfolio included its own legacy systems such as EqualLogic and SC (Compellent), alongside those from XtremIO and Unity which it inherited when it acquired EMC.

As Dell’s PowerStore global technology evangelist Jodey Hogeland puts it, the company asked itself, “How can we do what the industry has done with apps? How do we translate this into storage? »

The result is a unified architecture built around a container-based storage operating system, with individual storage management functionality delivered as microservices. This means that refining or adding a feature does not have to wait for a complete overhaul of the entire system.

“So, for example, our data path works like a container,” Hogeland explains. “It’s a unified architecture. So NAS capabilities or file services work like a container. Customers have the option “to deploy or not to deploy, it’s a click of a button: do I want a NAS?” Or do I just want a block-optimized environment? »

Needless to say, with other vendors, having file-based storage AND block-optimized hardware would usually mean two completely different platforms. The relative flexibility of Dell’s unified architecture is also one of the reasons PowerStore provides an upgrade path for all of these earlier Dell and EMC storage lines. A central feature of the PowerStore interface is a GUI-based import external storage option, which supports all of Dell’s pre-existing products, offering automatic discovery and data migration.

More importantly, the container-based approach means the vendor has been able to massively accelerate the pace of innovation on the platform since its launch, Hogeland says. “It’s almost like updating apps on your cellphone, where it’s, ‘Hey, there’s this new thing available, but I don’t have to go through a major update of all the some months.'”

PowerStore’s latest update, 3.0, was released in May and is the largest to date, delivering over 120 new software features. Its debut coincided with the launch of the next generation of hardware controllers for the platform. Existing Dell customers can easily add them to devices they already own through the Dell Anytime Upgrade program. This allows them to choose between one or two in-place data upgrade options on the existing kit or get a discount on a second device.

The new controllers feature the latest Intel Xeon Platinum processors which add a number of cybersecurity enhancements – silicon-based protection against malware and malicious modifications for example, as well as Hardware Root of Trust protection and SecureBoot. And enhanced support for third-party external key managers increases data-at-rest encryption security and protects against array-wide theft.

The controller upgrades also bring increased throughput via support for 100 GbE, up from 25 GbE, and expanded NVMe support. The original platform offered NVMe in the base chassis, but further expansion involved moving to SAS drives. Now, the expansion chassis also offers automated and auto-sensing NVMe support. PowerStore 3.0 software enhancements make the most of these features with support for NVMe on VMware Virtual Volumes, or vVols, developed in conjunction with VMware. This is in addition to the NVMe over TCP capabilities that Dell launched earlier this year.

Preliminary testing suggests this combination of new features can deliver up to a 50% performance boost on mixed workloads, with up to 70% faster writes and a 10x speed boost for copy operations. Maximum capacity is increased by two-thirds to 18.8 PBe per cluster, with up to eight times more volumes than the previous generation.

But it’s one thing to deliver more power, quite another to give administrators the ability to harness it easily. The rise of containerization in the world of applications has occurred in parallel with increased automation. Likewise, it’s critical to enable administrators to manage an increasingly complex storage infrastructure without distracting them from other more valuable tasks. This is where automation, thanks to PowerStore’s dynamic resiliency engine, comes into play.

For example, Hogeland explains, a cluster can include multiple PowerStore appliances. If a user needs to create 100 volumes, how does he determine the best place to host them. The answer is that they shouldn’t have to. “Today in PowerStore, you can literally say, ‘I want to create 100 volumes.’ There’s a drop-down that says these workloads are dispatched automatically, based on requirements and cluster analytics going on behind the scenes.”

At the same time, automation at the array backend level, such as choosing the most appropriate backend path, is completely transparent to the administrator, regardless of what is happening on the host side. “We can make real-time adjustments online to the back-end of the array to ensure that we are always delivering 100% the best performance the array can deliver at all times,” Hogeland explains.

With PowerStore 3.0, this has been extended to provide self-optimization combined with incremental growth of the underlying infrastructure. As for hardware upgrades, the PowerStore platform can expand from six flash modules to over 90. And, Hogeland points out, “we can mix and match drive sizes, we can mix and match capacities. And we can do single disc additions.

As administrators build their system, the system self-optimizes accordingly. “When a customer exceeds these thresholds, where they can get a better raw-to-usable ratio, due to the number of disks that are now in the system, PowerStore automatically begins to leverage this new width.”

“I don’t have to worry about reconfiguring the pool. There is only one pool in PowerStore. I don’t have to move things around or worry about RAID groups or RAID sets. adds Hogeland.

On a larger scale, version 3.0 adds the ability to use PowerStore to create a true metro environment for high availability and disaster recovery without the need for additional hardware, licensing, or even cost. “Version 3.0 takes advantage of direct integration with VMware and vSphere, Metro stretch cluster,” says Hogeland, which means sites can be up to 100 km apart. Again, this is a natively built-in feature, which Hogeland says only takes six clicks to set up.

This native level of integration with VMware means that “traditional” workloads such as Oracle or SQL Server instances land on PowerStore, Hogeland says, as well as virtual infrastructures and VDI deployments.

At the same time, Dell also offers integration with Kubernetes. A CSI driver allows K8-based systems, including Red Hat OpenShift, to use the PowerStore infrastructure for persistent storage. “Massive stores that are already at the forefront of K8 clusters are building a very robust container-based application infrastructure on PowerStore.”

Which shows what you can do when you understand that storage architectures, like software architectures, don’t have to be monolithic, but can be designed to be flexible, even agile.

As Hogeland points out, historically it has taken storage players six or seven years to introduce features such as support for Metro or the advanced software features seen in PowerStore into their architectures: “We did it in 24 about months.

Sponsored by Dell.

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