EMC Announces Unity – Part 1

EMC recently announced their new midrange array “Unity“. The message from EMC that I’ve heard during various briefings has been that it “eclipses” the VNX and VNXe. What they mean by that  is this. There is no VNX3 platform planned – Unity is EMC’s new midrange storage platform. Of interest though is that there are currently no VNX2 and VNXe EOL dates. EMC are positioning the Unity arrays in between the VNXe1600 and VNXe3200 and the 7600 and 8000 Hybrids. This will make a bit more sense as you read on. and while I’m at it, here’s a box shot, only because it wouldn’t be a product announcement without one of those.



Major Highlights

So what are the exciting parts of the announcement? Well, there are a few good bits that I’ll cover in depth further on.

  • HTML5 GUI – This is big. Java can finally go die in a fire. Or at least get updated on my laptop to something sensible;
  • Native block, file and VVOLS;
  • A new filesystem that goes to 64TB;
  • Unified block and file snapshots and replication;
  • Everything is now in 2RU of rack space – there are no more Control Stations, no more Data Movers.

Also of note is that within 90 days of GA VCE will be delivering these solutions as well.


New Models

There are four new models, with every model having an all-flash and hybrid option (all-flash being denoted by the F).


All models feature:

  • Proactive support
  • Self-service portal
  • System monitoring
  • CloudIQ dashboard and management platform.

EMC talked a bit about the density improvements as well, using the change from a base VNX5800 to the Unity 600F. In this example:

  • The footprint goes from 7RU – 2RU;
  • Cabling goes from 30 cables down to 6;
  • Power consumption is reduced from 1495W to 703W;
  • rack installation time goes from 60min – 2min; and
  • The hero number increases as well, with a benchmark as follows: 101K -> 295K IOPS (Thin LUN, Small block random workloads).

I haven’t put one of these things in a rack yet, nor have I had a chance to do my own testing, so I can only report what EMC are telling me. As always, your mileage might vary.



Are we finally rid of Windows-based FLARE running on SPs? EMC tells me we are. If you’ve been following Chad’s blog you’d have a feel for some of the background architecture that’s gone into Unity. In short, it’s a SUSE-based operating platform with everything (block, VVOLS and file) in a common pool. In my opinion this is kind of what we were hoping to see with VNX2, and it’s good to see it’s finally here.


Some of the features of the new architecture include:

  • A 64-bit, 64TB filesystem (wheee!);
  • Support for IP multi-tenancy;
  • Unified snapshots and replication (it was previously a bit of a mess of different tools);
  • Integrated data copy management (I need to read up on this);
  • Improved Quality of Service (QoS) and quota management;
  • Encryption and anti-virus services; and
  • “Modern” data protection choices.


Storage Pools

Storage Pools have been around since Release 30 of FLARE, but these ones are a bit more capable than their predecessors. All storage resources builds off storage pools. A few of the features include:

  • Modify operations include create, expand, modify, and delete (still no shrink, as best I can tell); and
  • Users can monitor and configure storage pools (good for shops with odd requirements).

Users can also view

  • Current and historical capacity usage;
  • FAST VP relocation and data distribution across storage pool tiers
  • Snapshot storage consumption thresholds and deletion policies

Here’s a handy table listing the maximum capacities for Storage Pools on each Unity model.


Note that the file components live inside what EMC calls “NAS Servers”, which are like virtualised data movers. I’ll be looking into these in more depth in the near future.



Speeds and Feeds

Here’s a table covering off the configurations for the various models (excluding the UnityVSA, which I’ll cover off later). Note that the Unity 500 (F) supports 350 drives initially, with 500 being supported in 2H 16. Note also that the Unity 600 (F) supports 500 drives with 1000 being supported in 2H 16.



A DPE has two Storage Processors (SPs), each with:

  • A single socket CPU Intel Haswell processor with 6-12 cores each
  • DDR4 DIMM slots
  • Embedded ports:
    • 2x 1GbE RJ45 ports (management and service)
    • 2x 10GbE RJ45 ports (front-end)
    • 2x CNA ports (front-end; configured during OE install for either FC or Ethernet)
    • 2x mini-HD SAS ports (12Gb SAS DAE connectivity)
    • 1x USB port
  • Front end connectivity is IP/iSCSI & Fibre Channel
  • Back end connective to drives is 12Gb SAS

All Unity Hybrid models support the 2U drive enclosure which supports up to twenty five 2.5” drives and/or the 3U drive enclosure which supports fifteen  3.5”  drives. Note that the All-Flash models support only the 2U drive enclosure. There is no need for a 3U drive enclosure to be supported as that enclosure is for SAS and NL-SAS.

Here’s a table providing an overview of the (pretty reasonable) range of drives supported.




You’ve already heard about vVNX. I even wrote about it. The UnityVSA takes that same concept and applies it to Unity, which is pretty cool. The following tables provide information on the basic configuration you’ll need in place to get it up and running.


There are a few different editions as well, with the 10TB and greater versions being made available on a yearly subscription basis with EMC Enhanced support. Pricing and capacity is as follows (note that these are US list prices):

  • 4TB – Free, Community supported
  • 10TB – $2995, EMC supported
  • 25TB – $3995, EMC supported
  • 50TB – $4995, EMC supported

Feature parity is there as much as it can be for a virtual system.



Unity Unisphere

I mentioned at the start of this post that Unisphere no longer uses Java. This is seriously good news in my opinion. As well as this, Unity’s new user interface has the following benefits:

  • Eliminates security concerns using browser plugins (that’s right no one likes you Java);
  • A sleek and clean look and feel; and
  • A flat UI, allowing all functions to be accomplished on the first screen in a category (be it file, block or VMware VVOLS).

As a result of the move to HTML5, a wide range of browsers are now supported, including:

  • Google Chrome v33 or later;
  • Internet Explorer v10 or later;
  • Mozilla Firefox v28 or later; and
  • Apple Safari v6 or later.

Here’s a screenshot of the new UI, and you can see that it’s a lot different to Navisphere and Unisphere.




I’ve worked with EMC midrange gear for a long time now, and it forms the bread and butter of a number of the solutions I sell and work on on a daily basis. While the VNX2 has at times looked a little long in the tooth, the Unity platform has (based on what I’ve been told so far) shaken off the rust and delivers a midrange array that feels a whole lot more modern than previous iterations of the EMC midrange. I’ll be interested to see how these things go in the field and am looking forward to putting them through their paces from a technical perspective. If you’re in the market for a new mid-range solution it wouldn’t hurt to talk to EMC about the Unity platform.


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