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Don’t Confuse Symmetrix V-Max with Storage Virtualization

by Hu Yoshida on Apr 14, 2009

EMC was very liberal with the V word during their announcement of the Symmetrix V-Max. They talked about virtual data centers and virtual servers, but the Symmetrix V-Max was just another big monolithic storage system. You can start with one V-Max engine with two directors and scale out to 8 V-Max engines with up to 128 host or backend connections, 1 TB of global mirrored memory, 2400 disks or 2 PB with 1TB disks. The EMC blogger, Storage anarchist, calls it “one big array”!

Chuck Hollis posted a blog this morning trying to make the case for Symmetrix V-Max as a “New Paradigm For Storage Virtualization”. He starts by citing the storage virtualization basics, pooling, migration, management, functionality, and asset re-use. Then he cites the challanges of heterogeneous storage virtualization, and claims that the Symmetrix V-Max solves all those problems by not virtualizing heterogeneous external storage! You can have pooling, migration, management, funtionality, and asset re-use, as long as it is in the Symmetrix V-Max.

This does not provide virtualization for external storage, not even for their Clariion or DMX. If you want to use the features of the Symmetrix V-Max you must rip and replace what you have. If you bought a DMX from your friendly EMC sales person last March or last December to help them out with their quarterly numbers, this announcement won’t help you. You will have to wait 3 to 5 years before you can capitalize it and scrap your old DMX.

With the Hitachi USP V, the V stands for Virtualization of external storage and the virtualization is end to end. You can attach the DMX’s you just bought behind the USP V and reduce your operating costs while enjoying the advanced functions of the USP V controller. While EMC has finally caught up to the USP V with 128 physical ports, each of the USP V storage ports can be virtualized into 1024 virtual ports, and each virtual port has its own address space for safe multitenancy. HDS users can share the same physical port but be assigned virtual ports with their own address space.

The address space in the USP V can be mapped to a Dynamic Provisioning pool, which virtualizes the capacity of a volume so that it can be thinly provisioned, and the storage in the pool can come from heterogeneous storage systems virtualized behind the USP V. There is no need to rip and replace. A USP V can attach your exiting storage assets and immediately enhance them with its enterprise functionality.

It appears that EMC has finally caught up with Hitachi with the ability to move data between tiers of storage with a feature they call Fully Automated Storage Tiering. Hitachi has been doing this since year 2000 with the Lightning 9900. Since 2004 Hitachi has extended automated tiering with the USP to externally attached storage, and with the USP V to thin moves, copies, replication, and migration. Up until now, with the DMX, EMC had to use external software to read and write data across internal tiers of storage. With the V-Max, they will still need to use external software to migrate, move or copy data from the DMX to V-Max.

Their Virtual Matrix interconnect sounds like a switch. How else can they connect the host ports on one V-Max engine to the cache in another V-Max to the backend ports of yet another V-Max engine?  Hitachi introduced the first switch architecture in year 2000 with the Lightning 9900. With the USP V, Hitachi is on the fourth generation of switch architecture. I guess the Direct Matrix that they announced in the DMX had to be changed to a switch or “Virtual Matrix” to  compete with the USP V.

At SNW last week in Orlando, audience surveys identified storage virtualization as the most important tool to “do more with less” While we will learn more about the Symmetrix V-Max over the next few weeks as more information becomes available, one thing is sure. The V in V-Max is not storage virtualization and it won’t help you “do more with less”.

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Comments (9 )

Stephen Foskett on 14 Apr 2009 at 8:50 am

As I noted in my Gestalt IT post on V-Max, it’s simply not a storage virtualization platform. It’s a new scalable, modular enterprise array architecture. I found Chuck’s post odd since he posed so many questions and then did not answer them! V-Max is a solid new entrant in enterprise storage, but it’s not a game-changer!

[...] as my buddy Hu pointed out this morning, that is again true. There is really nothing wrong with the EMC roadmap here, but until it evolves, [...]

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[...] It was pretty interesting to hear from EMC this week with their (rushed) announcement of the DMX-5, sorry, Symmetrix-V, where the V stands for Virtual…I think, which really means “virtual virtualization” because it doesn’t do storage virtualization. Wait. I get it, its virtual reality!  Hu has a great perspective on this. [...]

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Anonymous on 04 May 2009 at 8:38 pm

i think hu is missing the point with v-max. it’s never been positioned as an external storage virtualization platform – emc has invsita for that which is the best form of external storage virtualization, ie out-of-band and has no bottlenecking, like the usp.

v-max is a virtualization storage platform, in the way that it integrates with vmware, something hds has always been playing catchup to emc.

Hu Yoshida on 07 May 2009 at 11:57 am

Anonymous, no I am not confused about V-Max. I wanted to help our readers understand that this is not storage virtualization as you also point out. The distinction between storage virtualization and virtualization storage may not be obvious to the casual observer.

The USP was the first storage virtualization platform that was qualified on the VMware Hardware Compatiibility List. Invista was not qualified until they created a category for San Virtualization Device. The USP family is also qualified in that category. So I guess you can say that the USP platform is a Virtualization storage platform as well as a storage virtualization platform.

As far as integration goes, the USP supports Site Recovery Manager with the USP’s replication technogy across external, virtualized storage. This week we qualified the modular AMS 2000 platorm with SRM, so that product can also be called a virtualization storage platform.

We could debate the merits of USP versus Invista storage virtualization, but suffice it to say that customers who virtualize module storage arrays behind a USP often see a 30%
increase in performance due to the USP’s large global cache and the ability to load balance across multiple paths.

[...] job, using all the latest marketing tools and sizzling hyperbole. But, as I pointed out in my blog post on the announcement, there is one big glaring deficiency. Without storage virtualization V-Max [...]

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