VMware, EMC release new virtual storage, smaller VMAX array

VMware's vSphere Storage Appliance pools multiple servers' internal disk to form a SAN

In conjunction with VMware's release of its next generation cloud operating system, vSphere 5 , EMC this week announced new vSphere Storage Appliance (VSA) software and a smaller version of its top-end VMAX storage array. The VSA software pools internal disk capacity on physical servers to create a storage area network (SAN).

EMC's new version of its highest-end Symmetrix VMAX , the VMAXe storage system, is designed for deployment in private virtualized cloud environments.

The VMAX was EMC's first enterprise-class storage system built on Intel's x86 quad-core processors and integrated with VMware's APIs to automate the provisioning of storage for virtual machines across multiple tiers of disk drives, from solid-state to Serial ATA (SATA). That system scales to eight controllers and 2 petabytes of usable capacity within a single chassis.

The new VMAXe is aimed at mid-sized to lower enterprise-class companies and scales to four controllers and 960 drives for up to 1.3PB of capacity. Each controller can manage from 24 to 240 drives with up to 96GB of cache. Each storage bay holds up to 180 drives that can be any combination of 450GB 15,000 rpm Fibre Channel drives, 600GB 10,000 rpm Fibre Channel drives, 2TB 7,200rpm SATA drives and 200GB SSDs.

The VMAXe array

The VMAXe has up to 64 external, front-end ports for connectivity to application servers. The array has built-in open, local and remote replication support for EMC and non-EMC systems, which enables easy migrations, the company said.

The VMAXe is aimed at organizations with limited storage expertise and IT resources. It features a new hardware design for a smaller footprint - a 19-in. wide rack -- and has built-in software for fast installation, configuration and management. EMC states that the array can be set up and running in just four hours.

"The Symmetrix VMAXe is a compelling expansion of EMC's portfolio and meets the requirements of a new breed of customer, especially those in new and emerging markets around the world whose storage environment got bigger than they ever thought it would," said Terri McClure, an analyst with market research firm ESG. "EMC is meeting changing market conditions and requirements by making high-end storage capabilities, previously only available to larger data centers, available to everyone."

Hermie Cloete, a systems architect with EMC customer Duke Energy, said in a statement that the VMAXe provides his company with the flexibility to provide high-end capabilities in its lower-tier service level offering to business units, "as we look to expand our virtualization and private cloud infrastructure."

The VMAXe, like its larger predecessor, comes with software to manage virtual computing environments, including the EMC Symmetrix Management Console and Performance Analyzer, a web GUI and real-time dashboard views and EMC PowerPath SE, an automated I/O path failover software.

The VMAXe also supports high-end software capabilities, such as EMC's FAST VP (fully automated storage tiering with virtual pools), which automates where data is placed based on priority, and its TimeFinder local replication software.

The VMAXe can also support IPv6 with 10Gbps Ethernet connectivity, or it can have up to 64 Fibre Channel ports, 32 gigabit Ethernet (iSCSI) ports or 10Gbps Fibre Channel over Ethernet ports.

EMC did not immediately release pricing on the new VMAXe array.

vSphere storage array

EMC's VMware subsidiary also announced a vSphere Storage Appliance (VSA) that offers small and medium-sized businesses a storage area network (SAN) which uses the iSCSI protocol to serve up block-level data to as many as three physical servers running applications on virtual machines.

Storage Appliance is a software virtual appliance that allows vSphere administrators to use server storage space by presenting it as shared storage. Managed as a single instance from vCenter Server, VMware VSA is installed on a cluster of servers and resides on a virtual machine on each server. The cluster enables the virtual machines to access the shared storage without the need for dedicated external storage. vSphere administrators can simply allocate and provision this storage via vCenter Server. Once storage is allocated, managing it is the same as managing any shared storage -- even simpler, because the storage resource is managed through vCenter Server.

vCenter Server is VMware's virtual machine management tool.

The VSA also enables business continuity and automated resource management capabilities, including High Availability, vMotion , which moves virtual machines from one physical server to another, and Distributed Resource Scheduler , which dynamically allocates and balances computing resources.

The VMware vSphere Storage Appliance will run as a virtual appliance on VMware vSphere, pooling server internal storage across servers to create a virtual pool of protected shared storage without the need for external storage hardware.

"Until now, customers wanting to leverage the rich high availability and automated resource management functionality enabled by VMware vSphere's resource pooling capabilities needed separate shared storage hardware, which presented a cost and complexity barrier for some SMBs," VMware stated in its announcement. "The new VMware vSphere Storage Appliance will transform server internal storage into shared pools of storage."

According to VMware, the VSA software installs with just a few mouse clicks. Along with vCenter, the VSA enables a single console view for both servers and storage.

Because it runs on multiple servers simultaneously, the VMware vSphere Storage Appliance will ensure data is available to any workload, even when one of the servers in the cluster fails.

VMware's VSA will likely compete head to head with Hewlett-Packard's own P4000 virtual SAN , which it announced last fall.

Like the VSA, the P4000 is software that can run on any physical server and creates a SAN by combining internal disk drive capacity from up to 16 virtual servers. For example, the P4000 could combine capacity from VMware and HyperV servers to create a single pool of storage managed through one UI.

Pricing for the P4000 virtual SAN appliance with HyperV capability begins at $11,700.

The VMware VSA is expected to be generally available in the third quarter for $5,995. In the third quarter, VMware also will introduce a limited-time promotional offering for SMBs, bundling VMware vSphere 5 Essentials Plus and the VMware vSphere Storage Appliance for $7,995, which represents a 40% discount on the list price of the VSA.

EMC also said its products have been more tightly integrated with VMware's vSphere 5, its cloud operating system, which manages large pools of virtualized computing environments, including software and hardware.

EMC announced that RSA , the security division of EMC, is enabling VMware to embed RSA Data Loss Prevention (DLP) classification technology and policies into the VMware vShield 5 product family. VMware's vShield App with data security will include RSA's DLP content analysis engine and policies to discover and classify sensitive data in virtual environments.

Tighter VMware integration

EMC also said it has also extended its Virtual Computing Environment (VCE) Vblock Infrastructure Platforms in support of vSphere 5, offering Vblock customers more advanced security features as well as faster, simpler performance. VCE is a partnership between Cisco , EMC and VMware creating a pre-tested infrastructure that includes integrated server, networking, storage, security, virtualization and software technologies.

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com .

Read more about storage in Computerworld's Storage Topic Center.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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