Dell EMC World 2017: XtremIO Announcement Overview

Recently, Freddie Schindler and Yon Ubago both wrote overviews about the announcements at Dell EMC World 2017 and building off that excitement, I’d like to take a deep dive into the XtremIO X2 announcement, where it sits in the market, and how AHEAD ties this into our Cloud Delivery Framework.

Some DellEMC clients found that the initial XtremIO release was a bit rocky and had its challenges but, after a major software update (4.x), the XtremIO platform has turned into a solid and efficient array. DellEMC went back to R&D with a plethora of feedback from customers and partners to build and deliver the array that we all deserve.

XtremIO has always been a scale-out platform. Install a 25 SSD x-brick and you’re off. Once you need more performance or capacity, add another x-brick. Grow linearly in both performance and capacity. Unfortunately, if your data isn’t as efficient as you’d like, you’re forced to buy performance when all you needed was capacity. The X2 release addresses that concern.

XtremIO X2

X2 is offered in 2 models: X2-S and X2-R. The X2-S is meant for the customers that don’t need a lot of physical capacity, but a lot of logical capacity, therefore, it utilizes 400G flash drives and maxes out at 4 x-bricks. The X2-R has 1.92TB drives (3.84TB coming later this year) and maxes out at 8 x-bricks. Now, scale-out supports odd brick counts, so upgrades are more incremental which lowers upgrade cost.

X2 is now in the scale-up game as it introduces its new 72 drive dense tray in each x-brick. Previously you had to buy your x-brick with all 25 drives at once, then buy the next x-brick for more capacity. Now you can start your bricks with 18 drives, then grow to 72 in increments of 6 drives, which means an S-model x-brick ranges from 7.2TB to 28TB raw and the R-model x-brick ranges from 34.5TB to 138TB raw. This means each cluster can scale out to 115.2TB and 1.105PB raw respectively. When larger drives become available, you’ll be able to add those drives into your existing clusters. This is great news as you grow your x-bricks and clusters.

Other notable hardware improvements include BBU removal: vault to flash, increased controller memory for meta-data (think logical capacity), reduced cabling, 16g FC ports, and faster CPU cores. All these combined, result in a more stable platform with fewer service calls and hardware replacements (batteries) in a smaller RU footprint.

On the software side of the house, the X2 has made some more major improvements. First and foremost is its increased storage efficiency due to a new compression algorithm. This algorithm increases compression by 25%. For example, an Oracle database on X1 that compresses 2.2:1 would compress 3.2:1 on X2.

Another improvement is the graphical user interface. Replacing the installed Java client, an HTML5 GUI runs from the XMS and provides a familiar experience like other DellEMC products. Improved workflows make storage provisioning a breeze.

The last software update, which I think is a must-have nowadays, is native remote replication. Previously, remote replication was handled by adding XtremIO to a RecoverPoint cluster. If you’re not familiar, RecoverPoint utilizes many snapshots to provide rollback points for replicated LUNs. For XtremIO’s replication implementation with RecoverPoint, all the major work was performed on the XtremIO using its internal snap features. It would just send RecoverPoint the difference between 2 snaps, and RP would transfer it to the remote cluster. This is rather redundant as XtremIO is really good at snaps, and keeps them space efficient. So DellEMC has included the snap replication functionality into the X2 itself. No more need for RecoverPoint appliances or resizing headaches.

How does this announcement compare to other recent announcements?

Pure Storage recently announced their updated FlashArray //x product line that utilizes their new NVMe DirectFlash modules instead of off the shelf SSD. This coupled with their DirectFlash software separates the storage of data on flash and the management and space efficiency of that data. XtremIO is a commodity hardware platform. Its drives are off the shelf eMLC which helps keep its price down. While both XtremIO and FlashArray still do deduplication and compression, the cleanup and organization of that data is handled differently by each product. XtremIO lets the SSD manufacturers handle garbage collection at the drive level, where FlashArray does it at the OS level. With the new X2 platform, the icing on the cake is that because of the reduced hardware required and the off-the-shelf components, DellEMC has cut the cost of a single x-brick by 50%.

There were also updates to the rest of the DellEMC portfolio of all flash arrays. Some notable mentions include the release of the VMAX 950F, Unity 350F-650F, and Isilon AF (and new modular chassis). The VMAX line of arrays leads the pack in availability, scalability, and flexibility while XtremIO X2 provides extreme performance and efficiency. Unity AF is a high performing, easy to use unified platform that accelerates both block and file workloads which is a great fit for general purpose workloads.

The X2 and FlashArray do share a lot of the modern features including remote and local replication, ease of management, space efficiency, and remote management via APIs. These APIs are important as they are the real bread and butter of what we do at AHEAD. Utilizing these APIs, we can fully automate your storage provisioning and replication creation soup to nuts with a front-end like ServiceNow, VMware vRealize Automation/Orchestrator, Cisco Cloud Center, or UCS Director. With integrated native replication, X2 make this much easier than before. These hardware platforms are the foundation for our Cloud Delivery Framework (CDF) and this API based management functionality is the secret sauce to help fully automate your data center.

How AHEAD Can Help

Navigating the all-flash array market can be cumbersome and confusing at times. It’s hard to know what to look for and what makes each different. At AHEAD, we do the research for you so you can focus on what matters to your business. Our scorecard methodology helps our clients decide on the right platforms and technology approaches to fit their business and technology needs. So whether it’s storage, CI/HCI, data protection, cloud, EUC, or network, AHEAD can help you make the right decisions for your business.

What’s Next

If you’d like to see any of these technologies in action in our AHEAD lab,  schedule a deep dive technology review, or are interested in building a business-value based weighted technology scorecard, please reach out and we will set you up.



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Author: Chris Frank
Chris has been implementing storage solutions for almost a decade and prides himself on building client relationships that last. Formerly with EMC, Chris is now a Pre-Sales Specialist, Technical Architect at AHEAD who puts his experiences to work for his clients. In his free time, Chris enjoys his family, guitars, and construction projects with varying success.

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