Live Life To The V-Max

It was early 2009 when I first received word of EMC’s new Enterprise Storage, which at that time was being coined ‘The Tigron’. Rumours were abound that EMC were now going down the same route as the HDS USPV and taking the virtualisation through the array route. Some days later though, the launch of V-Max took place and what was initially thought of as marketing hyperbole did indeed present us with a completely new proposition altogether….

After the slight disappointment of the USPV launch in that personally it didn’t really seem to be a major change from the USP – granted it had 4 Gbps Fibre Channel connections to disk drives and hosts, new processors, support for half-size controller cards etc. I never felt that HDS really stepped up the mark when you consider the fact that the 1152 drive count was the same. So was V-Max also just another beefed up Symmetrix?

Upon observation architecturally V-Max is quite different from previous Symmetrix models even though the same software base is used with the familiar front end/back end functional design. The first significant change is the global cache which is now distributed among the directories’ memories as opposed to the centrally located and separate entity it used to be. Furthermore via the Virtual Matrix technology the directors are now physically interconnected via a dual-star network, enabling director-to-distributed global cache and director-to-director communications.

Another significant change is the underlying Power PC-based processing hardware replacement with Intel x86, coupled with Intel multi-core processors on each director. Thus the functionality of both front-end and back-end directors merge onto one processing complex, enabling local access to hardware for what were only global cache contents.

With up to eight engines which each provide two directors, the V-Max directors each comprise two Intel Xeon 5410 64-bit quad-core processors and their associated main memory and PCIe serial buses. Via the Virtual Matrix each director’s memory is then made available to all the other directors for a maximum of 1 TByte of global memory. And while custom ASICs have been utilized in previous Symmetrix models, by having the Virtual Matrix Interface (the ASIC / System Interface Board) to bridge memory access onto the RapidIO-based Virtual Matrix, the V-Max instead uses a fully standard interconnect between directors and global memory with all the custom hardware encapsulated together.

Furthermore while the predecessor Symmetrix models used two separate networks or buses for data and messages, the new V-Max uses QOS features which prioritize traffic as both messages and data travel over the RapidIO network. The V-Max also boldly claims to give three times the I/O bandwidth of the DMX-4 with double the number of ports.

So is this is a major step up from the Symmetrix? – It certainly seems so and one can only wait with excitement to see what new features EMC will add to this mechanical beauty as they prepare to launch the new V-Max version next year. In the meantime we wait for news on what move HDS will make and whether their imminent replacement of the USPV will be just more of the same or something with more than just a new name.