UPDATED 12:00 EDT / SEPTEMBER 29 2020

Scott Delandy INFRA

Dell EMC sees 30 years of Symmetrix storage array innovation

Symmetrix storage arrays, which began as EMC’s flagship product in the 1990s and are still going strong today in Dell Technologies Inc.’s PowerMax family, have been an essential part of enterprise computing infrastructure. With this month marking the technology’s 30th anniversary, theCUBE takes a look at the history of Symmetrix and how PowerMax is keeping that legacy going strong.

“One of the things that blows my mind is if you look at just the last earnings call … PowerMax business is still growing at a triple-digit rate,” said Scott Delandy (pictured), technology director, storage and data protection, at Dell Technologies.

Delandy spoke with Stuart Miniman, host of theCUBE, SiliconANGLE Media’s livestreaming studio, for a digital CUBE Conversation exploring the modern storage environment. (* Disclosure below.)

From mainframe to virtual: 30 years of Symmetrix storage

A three-decade veteran of Dell EMC, Delandy has had a front row seat as EMC’s Symmetrix platform has grown, became part of the Dell Technologies family, and entered the cloud era.

“A lot has changed with respect to the platform in terms of the technology, the types of environments that we support, [and] the data services that we provide,” he said. “The concept of external storage, deploying compute separate from the storage infrastructure, that was an unheard of concept back in 1990 when we first introduced Symmetrix.”

Throughout the journey from mainframe platform into mainframe and open systems and virtual environments, Symmetrix, now PowerMax, has been instrumental in leveraging storage infrastructure to evolve the ecosystem around supporting an organization’s applications and business operations, according to Delandy.

“[PowerMax] is still considered, the gold standard when it comes to high-end technology, providing the reliability, the automation, the data services, the rich functionality that has made that platform the success that still continues to be,” he said.

Pumping up PowerMax

The newest announcements in the Symmetrix lineage are a series of upgrades to the PowerMax family; with three major announcements revolving around VMware virtual volumes (vVols), cloud deployment support and security enhancements.

The goal of integrating vVols with PowerMax is to enable plugging into the VMware ecosystem, offering improved granularity “in terms of the storage and the capacity being consumed at the individual VM level,” Delandy stated. “Even though you have an external storage device connected into that environment, the way it gets managed, the way it gets provisioned, the way you set up replication, the way you recover things is completely transparent because all of that is handled through the VMware software that sits above.”

This solves a technical challenge posed by restrictions of scale. “When we plug into a VMware environment with a PowerMax, we can support up to 64,000 devices,” Delandy said.

This seems like a crazy amount, but it is necessary, as an individual VM can consume “dozens and dozens” of vVols, according to Delandy. “The ability to scale to that large number of vVols and being able to support that in a single storage system is very powerful for our users, especially folks out there that are looking to do massive levels of consolidation where they really want to collapse the infrastructure down,” he said. “Scale really does matter, especially for the types of users that would deploy a PowerMax in their environment.”

VMware and Dell continue to increase product interconnectivity

The integration of vVols and PowerMax is an extension of the close collaboration between VMware and Dell. And with VMware on the forefront of multi and hybrid cloud deployment, it makes sense that the cloud capabilities of PowerMax are also part of the new capabilities.

“One of the things that we’re also introducing within PowerMax, and we expect there to be a lot of interest and we expect there to be definitely a solid uptake in terms of adoption, is the ability to connect a PowerMax into a cloud,” Delandy said.

The feature offers flexibility in terms of cloud platform choice: “This could be a Dell ECS platform. It could be Amazon S3. It could be Microsoft Azure,” Delandy stated. This opens use cases where businesses can connect their PowerMax primary tier one storage and move datasets into a cloud provider.

Across Dell EMC, there is “a heightened level of awareness around security, especially for the types of applications and the types of data that we would typically support within these platforms,” Delandy stated.

For a long time it was good enough to encrypt data at rest, but as the environment becomes more dispersed, security has to stretch outside the data center. “The data needs to be encrypted from the host; from it being written by the application all the way through the server, the memory, the networks, everything, the controllers, right to the back-end storage,” Delandy said. “IT organizations are just now kind of getting their heads around this emerging requirement that it’s just not the stuff that’s at rest that needs to be encrypted; it’s the data end-to-end that’s in that process.

When the data is encrypted, businesses lose the financial benefits that come with dedupable compress, according to Delandy. He described a use case from a large insurance company, where all employee data needed to be end-to-end encrypted. In order to do this, the company realized they were going to have to increase their storage capacity three or four times because they were no longer able to get high deduplication and compression rates.

To solve this, Dell EMC is making the PowerMax capable of efficient end-to-end encryption. “So I can turn encryption on all the way at the host level. I can write that data into the PowerMax, the PowerMax has access to the encryption keys that are on the host. It has the ability to decrypt that data in line, so there’s no bump in the wire. There’s no performance impact; apply the data reduction to it and then re-encrypt the data as we’re writing it out to the back,” Delandy said. “It’s a hugely important feature.”

Watch the complete video interview below, and be sure to check out more of SiliconANGLE’s and theCUBE’s CUBE Conversations. (* Disclosure: Dell Technologies Inc. sponsored this CUBE conversation. Neither Dell nor other sponsors have editorial control over content on theCUBE or SiliconANGLE.)

Photo: SiliconANGLE

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