Storage Management Just Got Better With EMC VMAX And EMC ProSphere

Do you remember when you could tell where your data resided just by looking at the array?

It wasn’t that long ago when storage purchases went hand-in-hand with major application deployments. You had a fairly clear idea of where your data was stored for a particular application.

Then, along came virtualization and an abstraction between the application layer and storage. The relationship became less a marriage and more like group dating. Everything was cordial but it was no longer clear what the specific relationships were between application and storage. Next, cloud computing and automated storage tiering further redefined the rules and it became about getting the best out of all available resources and the best possible relationships among all parties involved.  

Now, with the EMC VMAX announcement today, EMC Federated Tiered Storage (FTS) extends these relationships for new possibilities with third-party storage not previously part of the pack. Add to this capability the ability to manage this extended storage with EMC ProSphere and combine it with other products through the also just-announced EMC DataBridge. Suddenly, there are new relationship possibilities above and below the storage management layer.

Storage to the Max

What’s new with EMC VMAX?

As announced at EMC World, the EMC VMAX family now includes the VMAX 10K (formerly VMAXe), the VMAX 20K (formerly VMAX), and the new VMAX 40K. As might be expected, these new arrays improve on a solid foundation to provide more power with up-to 3x the performance and 2x the scalability of anything else available.

Other additions include a more trusted infrastructure with the EMC RecoverPoint replication splitter now integrated with the array operating system; recover data to any point in time and applications to any event in time. Talk about flexibility in recovery-point objectives, not to mention recovery-time objectives (RTO) since synchronous replication with zero RTO is possible over metro and regional distances.

But, the real power here is in the management software. Also announced, there’s a new Unisphere management offering for VMAX providing a common look and feel across EMC block storage, including VMAX, VNX, VNXe, and VPLEX. ProSphere also employs this common look and feel for consistency across the management stack.  Equally powerful and maybe more interesting is the ability to now add external third-party storage with EMC FTS and to manage this storage and extend visualizations with ProSphere storage management and the DataBridge enterprise management mashup platform.

Be Assimilated

FTS protects customers’ investments in legacy storage and leverages the rich features of the new VMAX 20K and VMAX 40K to the external storage. FTS extends the great EMC advanced enterprise storage features like EMC FAST VP, EMC VP Snap, and EMC VLUN as well as the EMC SRDF, EMC TimeFinder, and RecoverPoint replication technologies to the raw capacity in third-party storage arrays. This externally provisioned storage is essentially another VMAX tier and can be used to create Symmetix volumes and thin pools, though RAID still needs to be implemented locally at the external array.

It is also worth noting that, with the acquisition of the raw disk capacity, existing data is not retained and must be backed up or otherwise moved or it will be erased during the re-purposing process. Alternatively, third-party storage volumes can be encapsulated which retains existing data to be presented through the VMAX arrays. FAST VP cannot be used with FTS encapsulated storage, but the encapsulated LUNs can be migrated through VLUN to VMAX volumes where FAST can be applied.

The whole concept of Federated Tiered Storage is exciting. But, it’s when we get to the topic of data protection with FTS that the story gets even more interesting. Unlike other similar offerings, EMC has buil- in safeguards to ensure the integrity of the data it manages in these external third-party arrays. FTS uses a basic cyclic redundancy check (CRC) mechanism to detect bad data. CRC information is written to the VMAX cache; this information is then used to check subsequent reads to the external storage to ensure nothing has been altered outside of the VMAX footprint.

Getting Down to Business

How can I get the most out of these new storage offerings?

Well, you can get ProSphere: EMC storage management software purpose-built for cloud computing.  Use it to manage the exploding growth in storage in highly virtualized heterogeneous data centers.

ProSphere provides the ability to group common tasks into Smart Groups for improved productivity management. This enables IT to take a policy-based approach to managing objects or setting data collection policies. Smart Groups was designed to improve operational efficiency in fast-growing, highly virtualized environments.

ProSphere also provides the ability to monitor and report on array capacity use—including external capacity imported through FTS. ProSphere recognizes LUNs that have been presented from external non- EMC storage logically positioned behind the Symmetrix VMAX 40K or 20K. Use ProSphere capacity monitoring and reporting for optimizing storage utilization, for planning future purchases, and for chargeback.

With the new ProSphere release to support the new VMAX arrays (version 1.6), ProSphere continues with this theme of policy-based management and now also supports service levels based on the FAST policies defined in Symmetrix arrays. ProSphere reports on capacity availability for each service level, and how much is being consumed by each server in the environment.

To net it out, ProSphere combined with the new Unisphere for VMAX provides the management framework for the new VMAX family.  

But, it doesn’t end here.

New Possibilities for Informed Decisions

While ProSphere harnesses the power of EMC VMAX and third-party arrays at the storage level, EMC DataBridge provides a wealth of new possibilities for combining business logic and ProSphere storage management data collected about these arrays with other data sources to create custom views for business-intelligence purposes.

ProSphere includes a REST API for leveraging the new DataBridge enterprise management mashup technology announced today. With DataBridge, developers and power users can combine EMC infrastructure management software (e.g. ProSphere, EMC Unified Infrastructure Manager, EMC IT Operations Intelligence, and more) and other data sources into custom dashboards. These unique personal views bring a whole new meaning to the concept of a single pane of glass.

Summing It Up

The new VMAX family, including especially Federated Tiered Storage extends VMAX storage capabilities across heterogeneous storage. PowerPath harnesses this power and leverages the new DataBridge mashup software to extend EMC converged infrastructure management to new visualizations for business intelligence and better informed decisions. All-in-all, storage management just got better with the new EMC offerings.

About the Author: Mark Prahl

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