UPDATED 14:09 EST / DECEMBER 07 2023


Dell debuts new PowerScale storage systems and AI-focused software upgrades

Dell Technologies Inc. today debuted new additions to its PowerScale series of storage systems along with an update to the OneFS software platform that powers the product line.

The updates are designed to help customers run artificial intelligence models more efficiently. Dell is also rolling out enhancements to other product lines, including the PowerEdge server portfolio, that likewise focus mainly on supporting AI use cases.

PowerScale is a collection of NAS, or network-attached storage, systems optimized to hold unstructured data. The systems are powered by an operating system called OneFS. It mitigates the impact of hardware failures, detects ransomware and automates certain maintenance tasks for administrators.

Dell is adding new all-flash systems to the PowerScale lineup that it says can carry out streaming data read and write operations up to twice as fast as earlier hardware. The new systems are based on the latest machines in the company’s PowerEdge server portfolio. Dell says a new “smart scale-out capability” will enable companies to make more efficient use of the graphics cards attached to the servers in their PowerScale environments, which should improve AI workloads’ performance.

The OneFS operating system that ships with PowerScale appliances is also receiving an AI-focused upgrade. According to Dell, the new release of the software will allow customers to more quickly train AI models, fine-tune them and perform inference, or the task of running neural networks in production.

“Storage performance is a critical factor for successful AI and generative AI outcomes,” said Arthur Lewis, president of Dell’s infrastructure solutions group. “Customers are relying on us to continually push the boundaries of storage innovation, including removing data access bottlenecks that limit the throughput and scalability of compute-intensive applications.”

To expand the range of AI projects that PowerScale can support, Dell is validating the product portfolio for use in DGX SuperPOD environments. DGX SuperPOD is an offering from Nvidia that combines data storage hardware with the chipmaker’s GPU-equipped DGX appliances. Those appliances each include eight A100 or H100 graphics cards along with multiple switches, a large amount of memory and other supporting components.

Dell expects that PowerScale will be the first Ethernet-based storage system series to earn a DGX SuperPOD certification. PowerScale systems use Ethernet-based network links to move data to and from customers’ DGX appliances. Competing storage appliances rely on other networking technologies, namely Nvidia’s own Quantum-2 InfiniBand and Spectrum Ethernet.

Dell is also enhancing the AI features of the PowerEdge server lineup its PowerScale systems use for computing tasks. The upgrade is rolling out for the PowerEdge XE9680, an AI-optimized machine that debuted last year. It’s receiving support for the Instinct MI300X machine learning accelerator that Advanced Micro Devices Inc. launched on Wednesday.

AMD claims the MI300X can outperform Nvidia’s H100 HGX graphics card by 30%. The new accelerator comprises a dozen chiplets: Eight are GPUs based on a five-nanometer process, while the other four contain six-nanometer circuits that manage data input and output operations. There are also eight HBM3 memory modules for storing the information the MI300X processes.

PowerScale is one of two storage product lineups for which Dell introduced enhancements today. The other is the APEX Storage portfolio, which is receiving new tools designed to ease the management of file-based data. 

Dell is rolling out a new service called APEX File Storage for Microsoft Azure that companies can use to manage data they keep in Microsoft Corp.’s public cloud. Databricks Inc. customers, meanwhile, are receiving a set of integrations that will become available in AWS and Azure. The integrations will make it easier to train AI models on data a company manages using APEX file storage software. 

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