EMC's V-Max builds up to petabytes of virtual storage

A new storage architecture lets V-Max arrays be linked together in a physical and virtual matrix to provide a pool of up to three petabytes of data storage
Written by Colin Barker, Contributor

EMC on Tuesday launched a storage array, the Symmetrix V-Max, that uses a new virtualisation architecture to provide a linked pool of up to three petabytes of storage.

The main principle of the new system, aimed at datacentres, is that each of the storage arrays has a connection to the Virtual Matrix Architecture (VMA) that allows them to be linked to other drive cabinets. The arrays can be built into a matrix, where every cabinet can talk to every other cabinet.

The V-Max is a "completely re-designed storage system and has definitely not been simply upgraded", said Barbara Robidoux, vice president of product marketing at EMC.

The V-Max array comes with built-in storage virtualisation, using software from EMC's sister company, VMware. Using this, the physical matrix of machines can be used to provide a virtual matrix of storage. This flexible architecture can scale up to large capacities that EMC plans to offer its largest corporate customers, the company said.

By opening up the scope of virtualisation, "the scale [of a system] is no longer defined by the physical backplane", Robidoux said.

When asked if the building blocks could be spread out across different locations, Bob Wambach, senior director of high-end storage at EMC, said the clusters have the same limitations as normal clusters.

The V-Max will automatically provision storage, and its VMware features will allow it to provision server and storage resources on demand. It offers centralised management, reporting and control. In tiered storage systems — where the tiers govern the priority and access speed of the storage — the V-Max can be used to allocate and reallocate data to different storage tiers and Raid levels, such as Fibre Channel and Sata disk drives.

The V-Max can scale to 1,024GB of global memory, and it has twice as many front-end and back-end connections as EMC's previous high-end storage cabinet, the DMX-4. The basic structure of the V-Max is little changed from the DMX-4, except in the scale of storage it can support. Like the previous drive array, it comes with 48 disk drives and will scale up to 2,400 disks; however, the disk drives have increased capacity.

At the centre of the system is the V-Max Engine, powered by quad-core 2.3GHz Intel processors with up to 128GB of memory and up to 16 host and 16 drive channel connections, EMC said. The Intel processor used will not be one of the fastest available, however. "This sort of choice is always a balance between speed and reliability, and we want to make these drives as reliable as possible," EMC's Wambach said, referring to the chip choice.

An array can accommodate from one to eight V-Max Engines, and up to 1TB of mirrored memory. It also offers up to 128 host ports, suitable for mainframes or open systems, and 128 backplane connectors for Flash, Fibre Channel or Sata drives.

The entry level single V-Max unit can have from 48 to 360 disks (with an extra drive added), Ficon, Fibre Channel, iSCSI or Gigabit Ethernet connectivity, and up to 128GB of main memory. It will cost from $250,000 (£170,000) with one connection to the VMA.

Alongside the VMA and V-Max announcements, EMC launched Fully Automated Storage Tiering (Fast) automation. This allows data to be moved between  tiers automatically and based on business policies, or on EMC's predictive models and "real-time access patterns", the company said.

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