EMC introduced the latest addition to its top mainframe Symmetrix storage, the VMAX 40K, which can scale to 4PB and is intended for extreme scalable environments. EMC claims the new device will deliver up to 3X more performance and more than 2X more usable capacity than any other offering in the industry. By configuring it with 2.5″ SAS drives and MLC (eMLC) Flash drives the device can also deliver the most densely packed storage.
The VMAX 40K, according to EMC, can store 60% more data than the Hitachi Virtual Storage Platform and 74% more than the IBM System Storage DS8000. The DS8000 today has a maximum capacity of 2.3PB. The Hitachi VSP tops out at 2.5PB.
If sheer capacity is the only issue, last summer word got out that IBM’s Almaden Lab delivered a 120PB array consisting of 200,000 SAS disk drives (rather than SATA) to ensure better performance for an unnamed client. Reports at that time also suggested the giant array was using IBM’s new General Parallel File System (GPFS), capable of indexing 10 billion files in just 43 minutes. The client and the use case have not been identified but the specs clearly suggest an extreme Big Data analytics situation.
For general enterprise computing as done by mainframe shops there is more to storage than just sheer capacity. For zEnterprise shops, the issue is how well optimized the EMC storage is for other parts of the System z. The zEnterprise already is highly optimized across its memory, processors, firmware, and networks as well as DS8000 storage.
As of the first quarter of this year IBM reports that the DS8000 supported the following capabilities that the EMC Symmetrix does not:
- Dynamic Volume Expansion
- Basic Hyper Swap
- zHPF—QSAM, BSAM, BPAM, format writes, DB2 list prefetch cache optimization
- Sub-volume tiering for CKD volumes
- zDAC performance optimization
- IMS WADS enhanced performance
- Workload Manager I/O performance support
- Metro Mirror suspension –message aggregation
If these capabilities are used in your data center, then the new EMC storage won’t work without extra effort on your part no matter how much capacity it delivers.
The VMAX 40K, however, does offer some nifty features, such as new Federated Tiered Storage (FTS) for VMAX through which external arrays can be used either as capacity pools for FAST VP (Fully Automated Storage Tiering for Virtual Pools) or managed as pass-through devices. FAST VP also now supports the System z and IBM i servers. Of course, IBM already delivers such storage tiering through EasyTier.
It is hard to assess how the VMAX 40K will work in the mainframe environment based on the spec sheet. And without pricing and workload benchmark data it is not possible to make an accurate assessment.
Still EMC rivals are decidedly cool. To HP, for instance, the VMAX 40K looks like a typical EMC midlife kicker; nothing surprising here, said an HP manager. He added that this does not change the fact that the EMC architecture is aging, and it doesn’t fundamentally change the economics of VMAX. HP, he notes, is beating VMAX head to head more and more with 3PAR based on its architectural advantage and newer technology. The HP mainframe storage is a Hitachi box, the P9500 XP Disk Array.
An IBMer, similarly, described the VMAX 40K as a business-as-usual, next-generation disk system announcement with new hardware and a few new functions. It still doesn’t appear to address the unsupported z capabilities noted above. The new EMC storage doesn’t do enough to offset advantages DS8000 offers mainframe shops today.
The introduction of the VMAX 40K, however, raises a larger question. In an increasingly scale-out world (as opposed to scale-up), do enterprises really need to load multi-petabytes of storage into a single frame? IBM recently boosted its SmartCloud offerings for enterprise computing. Will IBM put the zEnterprise and DS8000 storage up there too?