Dell EMC Announces XtremIO “X2”

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.

XtremIO X2

[image via Dell EMC]

In a nutshell, Dell EMC describe the new XtremIO X2 as “[f]lash optimised AFA with multi-dimensional scalability”. Features include:

  • New multi-dimensional scalable hardware
  • Software-driven performance / efficiency improvements
  • iCDM use case enhancements
  • New, simple HTML5 UI
  • New metadata-aware native replication (not at GA, later this year)

 

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X1 Challenges Addressed?

Firstly though, Dell EMC have been listening to customers, and have been working on some improvements with the X2. To wit:

  • Cabling – there’s a new cable harness
  • BBU – BBUs replaced with NVRAM
  • Price – as low as a third of the price of the X1 in terms of effective $/GB
  • Density – up to 100TB/RU
  • Scaling – scale up and scale out
  • 16Gb FC – Natively supported on X2

 

Cabling

A picture is indeed worth a thousand words. And the original X-Brick had some fairly ordinary cable management. The X2 is better.

[image via Dell EMC]

 

PCIe NVRAM

Those cumbersome (and rack space consuming) battery backup units (BBUs) are no more.

  • Increased reliability
  • Reduced service calls (battery replacement)
  • Improved density
  • Reduced cabling
  • Reduced complexity
  • Allows odd X-Brick support

 

A Third of the Price?

How can they say that? Well, according to Dell EMC, the X2 offers:

  • Higher density X-Bricks
  • Higher data reduction
  • Lower WPD SSDs
  • iCDM enhancements
  • Better controller cost amortisation
  • Better scaling economics

 

X2 is better than X1

Speeds and Feeds

There are 2 models (X2-S & X2-R) being launched.

Configuration X-Brick Minimum Raw X-Brick Maximum Raw Cluster Size in X-Bricks
X2-S 7.2TB 28.8TB Up to 4
X2-R 34.5TB 138.2TB Up to 8 (Post GA)

*Note that the sizing assumes 4:1 Data Reduction Rate (DRR) and ~80% usable:raw ratio.

There are 2 active controllers (each with 2×12 Haswell cores) and:

  • 1024GB RAM each
  • 2x 16Gbps FC
  • 2x 10Gbps iSCSI
  • Infiniband RDMA for controller communications
  • SAS 3.0
  • 1920GB SSDs (up to 72 per X-Brick)

With this you can scale to over 1.1PB Raw (and over 5PB assuming 4:1 dedupe rates). In terms of drive configurations, the starting point is 18 drives, and you can scale up in increments of 6 drives. When you get past 36 drives, a second XDP group is added (whereby you deploy another 18 + 6 + 6 + 6 disks). The SSDs are a hot swappable field replaceable unit (FRU) as well.

 

Expanded iCDM Capabilities

This is all pretty exciting, but what about integrated copy data management (iCDM)? Dell EMC say they’ve been seeing a 25% better data reduction on average when comparing X1 to X2 (on a 100GB working set). There have also been compression improvements made (via an intelligent packing algorithm) yielding 16:1 ratios. As well as this, they’re providing:

  • Open APIs
  • App integration and orchestration
  • Virtual copies (XVC)
  • Consistent, multi-dimensional performance with inline data services

You can now also do 2x the number of XVC copies. There are 16384 volumes supported, with 1024 snapshots per volume also supported.

 

Management

New HTML5 UI

  • No more Java binaries – aw yisss!
  • Faster and better user experience

Simple and Intuitive UI

  • Easy drill-down & navigation
  • Intelligent reports
  • 1-2-3 provisioning

You can manage X2 clusters (obviously), and will have the ability to manage X1 clusters post GA.

 

Provisioning

Provisioning has been improved, with “Next step suggestions” in the form of:

  • Flexible and guided provisioning flows
  • “Popular” next step suggestions
  • Multi-step workflows

 

Metadata-aware Native Replication

This is coming in the future. Dell EMC tell me it’s going to be great. And I really hope it will be, because I’ve been underwhelmed in the field to date.

Easy operation

  • Uses XtremIO in-memory snapshot
  • Wizard-based
  • Full operational DR

Best Protection

  • RPO as low as 30 seconds
  • Immediate RTO
  • Up to 1000 recovery points
  • “Fan-in” configurations

Superior Performance

  • Supports XtremIO high performance
  • Efficient metadata-aware replication
  • Efficient replication – compression aware

How Will It Work?

  • Only deduplicated changes are replicated – data is deduplicated at source, destination, and WAN
  • Arrays at both ends must transmit and receive only deduplicated data
  • WAN bandwidth must be sized to account for only deduplicated data
  • No need for WAN accelerators
  • Native replication is async only

 

When?

The X2 will be available to order from May 31st, 2017 and shipping from August 30th, 2017. XIOS 6.0 will be made GA on August 30th, 2017.

 

Conclusion

I’ve been a fan of the XtremIO for a while now. It goes really fast and does some really cool stuff in terms of density, deduplication and performance. It has been a little underwhelming in terms of data services support (although we’ve seen X1 go through some significant changes in that respect) and hasn’t always been price competitive. But if you’ve been a VMAX customer pining for rack space or an enterprise running some RDBMS that needed some great performance from your block storage, then XtremIO has been for you.

This iteration of the XtremIO platform sounds (on paper at least) to be a lot better than its predecessor, and demonstrates that Dell EMC have been listening to their customers. In much the same way as X-Men 2 was better than the first one, so too does the X2 have the edge over the X1. I look forward to seeing these things in the field. And I look forward very much to seeing the end of Java-based storage management UIs. If you’d like to read Dell EMC’s take on the announcement, check out this blog post.