This is one of a series of podcasts the GreyBeards are doing with Dell PowerFlex software defined infrastructure. Today, we talked with Anthony Cinelli, Sr. Director Dell Technologies and Brian Dean, Technical Marketing for PowerFlex. We have talked with Brian before but this is the first time we’ve met Anthony. They were both very knowledgeable about PowerFlex and the challenges large enterprises have today with their storage environments.
The key to PowerFlex’s software defined solution is its extreme flexibility, which comes mainly from its architecture which offers scale-out deployment options ranging from HCI solutions to a fully disaggregated compute-storage environment, in seemingly any combination (see technical resources for more info). With this sophistication, PowerFlex can help consolidate enterprise storage across just about any environment from virtualized workloads, to standalone databases, big data analytics, as well as containerized environments and of course, the cloud. Listen to the podcast to learn more.
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To support this extreme flexibility, PowerFlex uses both client and storage software that can be configured together on a server (HCI) or apart, across compute and storage nodes to offer block storage. PowerFlex client software runs on any modern bare-metal or virtualized environment.
Anthony mentioned that one common problem to enterprises today is storage sprawl. Most large customers have an IT environment with sizable hypervisor based workloads, a dedicated database workload, a big data/analytics workload, a modern container based workload stack, an AI/ML/DL workload and more often than not, a vertical specific workload.
Each workload usually has their own storage system. And the problem with 4-7 different storage systems is cost, e.g., cost of underutilized storage. Typical to these environments, each storage system could be used at say, 60% utilization on average, but this will vary a lot between silos, leading to stranded capacity.
The main reason customers haven’t consolidated yet is because each silo has different performance characteristics. As a result, they end up purchasing excess capacity which increases cost and complexity, as a standard part of doing business.
To consolidate storage across these disparate environments requires a no-holds barred approach to IO performance, second to none, which PowerFlex can deliver. The secret to to its high levels of IO performance is RAID 10, deployed across a scale-out cluster. And PowerFlex clusters can range from 4 to 1000 or more nodes.
RAIID 10 mirrors data and spreads mirrored data across all drives and servers in a cluster or some subset. As a result, as you add storage nodes, IO performance scales up, almost linearly.
Yes, there can be other bottlenecks in clusters like this, most often networking, but with PowerFlex storage, IO need not be one of them. Anthony mentioned that PowerFlex will perform as fast as your infrastructure will support. So if your environment has 25 Gig Ethernet, it will perform IO at that speed, if you use 100 Gig Ethernet, it will perform at that speed.
In addition, PowerFlex offers automated LifeCycle Management (LCM), which can make having a 1000 node PowerFlex cluster almost as easy as a 10 node cluster. However to make use this automated LCM, one must run its storage server software on Dell PowerEdge servers.
Brian said adding or decommissioning PowerFlex nodes is a painless process. Because data is always mirrored, customers can remove any node, at any time and PowerFlex will automatically rebuild data across other nodes and drives. When you add nodes, those drives become immediately available to support more IO activity. Another item to note, because of RAID 10, PowerFlex mirror rebuilds happen very fast, as just about every other drive and node in the cluster (or subset) participates in the rebuild process.
PowerFlex supports Storage Pools. This partitions PowerFlex storage nodes and devices into multiple pools of storage used to host volume IO and data Storage pools can be used to segregate higher performing storage nodes from lower performing ones so that some volumes can exclusively reside on higher (or lower) performing hardware.
Although customers can configure PowerFlex to use all nodes and drives in a system or storage pool for volume data mirroring, PowerFlex offers other data placement alternatives to support high availability.
PowerFlex supports Protection Domains which are subsets or collections of storage servers and drives in a cluster where volume data will reside. This will allow one protection domain to go down while others continue to operate. Realize that because volume data is mirrored across all devices in a protection domain, it will take lots of nodes or devices to go down before a protection domain is out of action.
PowerFlex also uses Fault Sets, which are a collection of storage servers and their devices within a Protection Domain, that will contain one half of a volume’s data mirror. PowerFlex will insure that a primary and its mirror copy of volume’s data will not both reside on the same fault set. A fault set could be a rack of servers, multiple racks, all PowerFlex storage servers in an AZ, etc. With fault sets, customer data will always reside across a minimum of two fault sets, and if any one goes down, data is still available.
PowerFlex also operates in the cloud. In this case, customers bring their own PowerFlex software and deploy it over cloud compute and storage.
Brian mentioned that anything PowerFlex can do such as reconfiguring servers, can be done through RESTful/API calls. This can be particularly useful in cloud deployments as above, if customers want to scale up or down IO performance automatically.
Besides block services, PowerFlex also offers NFS/CIFS-SMB native file services using a File Node Controller. This frontends PowerFlex storage nodes to support customer NFS/SMB file access to PowerFlex data.
Anthony Cinelli, Sr. Director Global PowerFlex Software Defined & MultiCloud Solutions
Anthony Cinelli is a key leader for Dell Technologies helping drive the success of our software defined and multicloud solutions portfolio across the customer landscape. Anthony has been with Dell for 13 years and in that time has helped launch our HCI and Software Defined businesses from startup to the multi-billion dollar lines of business they now represent for Dell.
Anthony has a wealth of experience helping some of the largest organizations in the world achieve their IT transformation and multicloud initiatives through the use of software defined technologies.
Brian Dean, Dell PowerFlex Technical Marketing
Brian is a 16+ year veteran of the technology industry, and before that spent a decade in higher education. Brian has worked at EMC and Dell for 7 years, first as Solutions Architect and then as TME, focusing primarily on PowerFlex and software-defined storage ecosystems.
Prior to joining EMC, Brian was on the consumer/buyer side of large storage systems, directing operations for two Internet-based digital video surveillance startups.
When he’s not wrestling with computer systems, he might be found hiking and climbing in the mountains of North Carolina.