I’m at Dell Technologies World this week in Las Vegas and I’ve had the pleasure to be briefed on the latest announcements in midrange storage, namely the introduction of the Unity XT.
What’s new with Unity?
The Unity XT is the latest family member in Dell Technologies midrange storage. The XT is built on the new Intel Skylake CPU architecture and will be available either on All Flash or Hybrid configurations.
Unity XT benefits of a broad range of improvements. Among these, Dell Technologies announced:
- Improved hardware platform
- 2X faster performance (IOPS)
- 75% lower latency (tested at 150K IOPS with 8 Kb block size and a 70/30 R/W ratio)
- Extensive software changes – code improvements made for the Unity XT are also available on the Unity
- Improved inline deduplication and compression
- Improved storage usage -> 85% of the raw capacity is usable
- NVMe ready
- Integration with Cloud IQ
Dell Technologies claim that they conducted an extensive analysis of data reduction ratios; they see up to 5:1 data reduction, with an average baseline of 3:1 across their estate of installed devices. This drives Dell Technologies to guarantee 3:1 data reduction to their customers. It can be expected that Dell Technologies will back their guarantee with a commercial gesture to customers if the 3:1 ratio isn’t reached.
Data Services & Integration Points
During my last discussions with Dell Technologies storage execs in November 2018, one of the important points I raised was the need to provide data services that are consistent, i.e. delivered across the entire Dell Technologies storage range. Dell Technologies made several announcements related to these matters at Dell Technologies World 2019.
While this is relevant to the Unity XT, it’s fair to assume that what I’ll outline below is the vision for the entire Dell Technologies storage portfolio at some point in time. The picture below highlights what Dell EMC calls a “cloud-enabled infrastructure”.
Dell EMC Cloud Storage Services is part of the Cloud Data Services provided by Dell Technologies. It allows customers to connect their Unity (but also PowerMax and Isilon) to multiple clouds, whether for block or file use cases. The supported public clouds are AWS, Azure, Google Cloud Platform and VMware on AWS.
According to Dell Technologies, the three key drivers behind Cloud Storage Services are speed (with a high speed, low-latency connectivity to the cloud), efficiency (durability, 6 nines availability, persistency of storage and enterprise grade security), and flexibility, with the ability to scale storage as needed.
There are several use cases envisioned by Dell Technologies such as Analytics, Test/Dev, Workload Migration, but also Disaster Recovery and Backup & Archive.
It is not clear to me whether the deployment models imply a direct connection to the public cloud, or if a service via a managed service provider. The use case below (Automated DR with VMware on AWS) highlights the deployment model that uses an MSP.
Automated Disaster Recovery with VMware on AWS
As if Cloud Storage Services weren’t enough goodness, Dell Technologies added another solution that uses VMware on AWS to support Disaster Recovery use cases. Dell states that this service integrates seamlessly with VMware environments; it allows for automated DR operations as well as pay-as-you-go DRaaS, where you also pay for the compute only when your primary site fails.
The way it works is that you replicate data from your on-premises environment to a select managed service provider. In case of failure of your primary site, the VMs are started from VMware on AWS and data is served from the MSP’s infrastructure. The compute resides on VMware on AWS while the data resides at the MSP, which has a physical Unity or PowerMax on their DC. This architecture is enabled by a direct connection (dedicated link) between the MSP and VMware on AWS.
Currently, only the US and London zones are served, but Dell Technologies will be adding further locations in the future.
Overall I find the Unity XT announcement interesting. It’s not because of the Unity XT itself: one can applaud that a new iteration of a storage platform is getting faster, more efficient, and has more features, but that is what the market and the customers expect.
Talking about storage, what I am looking to hear about (but we are not there yet) is more around “midrange.next”, i.e. the next generation midrange storage from Dell Technologies. This should incorporate the best out of the existing midrange portfolio products, with the hope that eventually in the mid to long term we’ll see some simplification in the portfolio.
Dell Technologies are finally announcing cloud-based data services for their storage portfolio. It’s my understanding so far that these will mostly be relevant for the Unity platform, as well as PowerMax and Isilon.
Cloud Data Services are a first for Dell Technologies, and therefore there may be a first stage where the company is testing options, so it may take some time to rationalize the existing breadth of services offered.
Because of the way certain scenarios work, direct replication to cloud doesn’t seems possible. It may require more deep-dive into the topic, or perhaps understand the way the service works and how it is consumed.
The role of the MSP element in this cloud services conversation is interesting. I can understand why Dell Technologies may want to rely on one or more MSPs: this way they can empower their partners in the MSP segment and give them a piece of the cake; Dell can also avoid the operational cost of running an infrastructure and deliver a service that is effectively provided by others. But replication to the cloud between an on-premises Unity and a cloud-based virtual appliance Unity should also be doable (provided that there’s actually a cloud based virtual appliance version of Unity).
As someone managing a complex environment, I try to avoid complexities as much as possible, whether they are tied to architectural or administrative / cost matters, so the rationale of the MSP and the advantage it brings needs to be clarified. If my memory is correct (and excuse the fogginess, it’s been an intense week), the rationale of using the MSP is that this should come as a managed service offering, which alleviates the burden on the customer.
I hope that Dell Technologies will eventually take a direction where these services are simplified for the greater benefit of customers, but it’s great that we are finally at a stage where these services are starting to appear.
I was invited to attend Dell Technologies World by Dell Technologies. Dell Technologies covered travel, accommodation, and an analyst/media conference pass (which also entitled me to food during conference hours). I did cover entirely my personal expenses during the event. I did not receive any form of financial compensation for participation in this event, and I am also not obliged to blog or produce any kind of content. Any tweets, blog articles or any other form of content I may produce are the exclusive product of my interest in technology and my will to share information with my peers. I will commit to share only my own point of view and analysis of the products and technologies I will be seeing/listening about during this event.