Dell EMC Announces Midrange Storage Line Enhancements

Disclaimer: I recently attended Dell EMC World 2017.  My flights, accommodation and conference pass were paid for by Dell EMC via the Dell EMC Elect program. There is no requirement for me to blog about any of the content presented and I am not compensated in any way for my time at the event.  Some materials presented were discussed under NDA and don’t form part of my blog posts, but could influence future discussions.

Midrange Overview

Dell EMC today announced a number of new midrange storage models and enhancements. According to Dell EMC the midrange is still a big market and they estimate 7% growth over the next 5 years (I may have misheard though). As such, they’re positioning the new midrange family, comprised of the Unity and SC (Compellent) platforms. The goal is to provide common tools for management, mobility and protection (namely PowerPath, ViPR, VPLEX, RecoverPoint, Connectrix, and Data Domain).


Glad you asked. Dell EMC are positioning the two sides of the family as follows:


  • All Flash – simple, flash density, inline efficiency, consistent response time, cloud tier
  • Unified – unified file and block, app, software defined or converged, data in place upgrades

SC Series

  • Hybrid – granular tiering, 0-100% Flash, efficiency for hybrid
  • Best economics – intelligent compression and dedupe, persistent software licenses

It’s obviously not always going to be that cut and dried, but it’s a start.



So, what’s new with Unity? There’ll be new “F” models available from Q2 2017. There’ll also be new code released to support the new line. This will be installable on previous-generation Unity models as well. Note that, according Dell EMC, Unity hybrid isn’t going anywhere.


Speeds and Feeds

  Unity 350F Unity 450F Unity 550F Unity 650F
Processor 6core / 1.7GHz 10core / 2.2GHz 14core / 2.4GHz 14core / 2.4GHz
96GB Memory 128GB Memory 256GB Memory 512GB Memory
Capacity 150 Drives 250 Drives 500 Drives 1000 Drives
2.4PB 4PB 8PB 16PB
Volume 1000 @ 256TB 1500 @ 256TB 2000 @ 256TB 6000 @ 256TB
9000 @ 64TB 9000 @ 64TB 13500 @ 64TB 30000 @ 64TB
1000 @ 256TB 1500 @ 256TB 2000 @ 256TB 4000 @ 256TB
Snaps 8000 14000 20000 30000
256 per volume 256 per volume 256 per volume 256 per volume



Do you hate Java? I do. As do most people who had to use Java-based Unisphere. With Unity Dell EMC have provided a more modern, user-friendly approach to array management.

  • HTML-5 based Unisphere
  • CloudIQ
  • Unified CLI and REST API


Architected for All Flash

Dell EMC tell me the Unity array is “architected for all flash”. It certainly has a lot of the features you’d expect from an all flash array, including:

  • 3D TLC NAND flash drive for all IO types;
  • Multi-core optimized for best CPU utilisation and low latency;
  • Automatic flash wear balance;
  • Zero impact drive firmware based garbage collection;
  • Per object in-memory log for consistent low response time;
  • Write coalescing with full stripe writes to minimise IO;
  • Inline compression; and
  • Mix different flash drive types and capacities for lowest cost.



If you’ve been tracking the Unity you may have noticed the continuous introduction of support for larger drives. With the introduction of the “Dense Shelf”, you’re now looking at 500TB of capacity per RU. That, as they say, is a lot of capacity.

Q2 2016 3.2TB (32TB usable per RU)
Q3 2016 7.6TB (76TB usable per RU)
3.84TB (38TB usable per RU)
Q4 2016 Inline compression (300TB effective per RU)
15.4TB (152TB usable per RU)
Q2 2017 Dense shelf – 500TB effective per RU – 80 drives in 3RU form factor


Dynamic Pools
Unlike standard pools you can now add single drives (distributes the spare capacity and improves the rebuild time). I’ll be digging into this feature a bit more in the future (hopefully).


File System

The u64 file system was introduced with the Unity and has had a bit of an uplift in terms of capacity. It now scales to 256TB usable capacity per file system with 10M+ sub-directories and files. The cool thing is it also supports inline compression on the file system using pointer-based snaps with simple space reclaim and low IO impact. There’s also a cloud archiving and tiering capability. This provides policy-based transparent archival of files to public or private cloud (Virtustream by preference, but I believe there’s also support for Azure and AWS).


Snapshot Mobility

As of Q2 you’ll have the ability to move snapshots from array to array (local to remote to cloud).


Thin clones

  • Deduplicate / shared data set
  • Independent LUNs
  • Independent snap / replication schedules
  • Fast create / populate and restore


Dell EMC are keen as beans for you to have a good experience getting stuff onto your shiny new Unity array. As such they offer a built-in, integrated migration tool (that you run from Unisphere). It:

  • Supports FC, iSCSI, NFS (2H 2016) and SMB (H1 2017) migration from VNX;
  • Migrates LUNs, file systems, quotas, ACLs and exports; and is
  • Transparent to file applications and minimally disruptive for block.

Existing Unity customers will also be able to do data in place (DIP) upgrades online (from 2H 2017).


SC Series

Speeds and Feeds

I haven’t kept up with the SC line in recent years, so I found this table handy. You might too.

  SCv20X0 SC 5020 SC 7020 SC 9000
Processor 4core / 3.6GHz 8core / 2.4GHz 2x8core / 2.5GHz 2x8core / 3.2GHz
16GB Memory 128GB Memory 256GB Memory 512GB Memory
Capacity 168 Drives 222 Drives 500 Drives 1024 Drives
672TB 2PB 3PB 4PB
Volumes 1000 LUNs / Vvols 2000 LUNs / Vvols 2000 LUNs / Vvols 2000 LUNs / Vvols
500TB per volume 500TB per volume 500TB per volume 500TB per volume
Snapshots 2000 4096 16384 32000

Note a DIP upgrade from SC 4020 can also get you to the SC 5020.


Flexible Configuration

Dell EMC are positioning the SC line of arrays as a flexible approach to configuration. Offering a range of performance options, pricing and configurations.

  • All flash, some flash or no flash
  • Start with one configuration and convert to another
  • Designed to fit any workload and budget


Drive Efficiency

  • Activate on lowest tier of media
  • Easy on/off selectable by volume
  • data efficiency works in the background on “inactive” data
  • post-process operation ensures no impact to active data IO after data has been moved from active to inactive tier
  • best for environments (hybrid) that do not require 24x7x365 consistent response time


Intelligent Compression and Deduplication

The SC range has always been about the efficient storage of data. Dell EMC think they’re onto a good thing with intelligent deduplication and compression. I’m keen to see it working for myself before I get too excited.

  • Directs all incoming writes to dynamically partitioned “write” space (R10) on Tier 1 drives
  • Moves inactive data from “write” space to space efficient space (R5/6) on same or other tiers
  • Post-process operation compresses / dedupes inactive data


Investment Protection

Dell EMC don’t want you to feel like you can’t have your cake and eat it too. You may have been an EMC customer before Dell acquired them. Or maybe you’ve dabbled with EqualLogic arrays. That’s okay, you get a certain level of “Investment protection” via cross platform replication.

  • SC Series <-> PS Series via Replication
  • SC Series <-> VMAX, XtremIO, Unity via RecoverPoint VM Replication



Time to throw out your MD devices? Never fear, there’s a built-in migration path from “Legacy”.

  • Migrates LUNs (no snaps) from PS and MD (2H 2017) series to SC Series
  • Built-in solution: self-service without requiring any third-party tool
  • Offers both offline and online thin import depending on use case
  • Online minimally disruptive: requires unmount and mount



Dell EMC offer both centralised and web-based management for the SC series.

HTML5-based Unisphere for SC (that’s right!)

  • Compatible with most modern browsers
  • Unisphere style modern look and feel
  • No separate download or install required


  • Central monitoring and reporting for midrange
  • Cloud-based
  • Support for planning and optimisation

Dell Storage Manager

  • Central management and monitoring of SC and PS arrays
  • Advanced features
  • Supports up to 10 arrays



In terms of “family”, this announcement positions the midrange offering from Dell EMC as more Brady Bunch than Manson family. This is a good thing in my opinion. I’ve seen firsthand some of the opposition put up by EMC or Dell customers prior to the merger, and other vendors have certainly been licking their chops hoping the whole thing would prove too hard and Dell EMC would lose their way. Whilst it would be overly optimistic (and naïve) to expect them to consolidate the midrange platform to one line of arrays in such a short amount of time, the Unity and SC lines cover all the bases and show signs of future, further streamlining activities.

I cut my teeth (figuratively) on an old CLARiiON FC4700 and have watched the progression over the years of the EMC midrange offering. Similarly I have plenty of customers who’ve helped themselves to PS, SC and MD arrays. It’s nice to see all this cool tech coming together. While midrange isn’t anywhere near as sexy as massively scalable object storage, it performs an important function for a wide range of businesses small and large and shouldn’t be ignored. As with other product announcements I cover here, if you have particular queries about the products I recommend you engage with your local Dell EMC team in the first instance. The new Dell EMC Unity All-Flash models will be orderable this month and available in July. The SC5020 is orderable this month and will be generally available in June. If you want it from the horse’s mouth, you can read blog posts from Dell EMC covering the announcements around Unity here and SC series here.


  1. Hi Dan. Do you have any more info about the new ‘Dynamic Pool’ feature. Quite interested in how this will work for small incremental growth. Particularly interested if only an option when going all flash or will it be available via an update to all existing Unity hybrid models.

  2. Great question Simon. Off the top of my head I can’t remember which way it would go (AF or hybrid). I’ll try and do some digging and get back to you.

  3. Pingback: Dell EMC’s in the Midst of a Midrange Resurrection |

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