EMC optimizes VNX hybrid array for flash

The midrange system can now take better advantage of multicore chips for high performance, EMC says

By , IDG News Service |  Storage

EMC's VNX hybrid storage line is now built for flash first, with revamped software that can take full advantage of multicore processors, producing what the company calls a major boost in performance.

As the cost of flash media falls and more enterprises turn to it for faster access to at least some of their data, hybrid arrays of both SSDs (solid-state disks) and HDDs (hard disk drives) are becoming an enterprise storage mainstay. Getting the full benefit of flash in those platforms requires more than just installing SSDs in place of spinning disks, so EMC and others are upping their game to increase speed across the board.

EMC is unveiling the new generation of its more than two-year-old VNX line at an event in Milan on Wednesday and presenting it as a major advance for the midrange storage platform. Whereas the current VNX is designed for HDDs and can accommodate SSDs, the new platform was built from the assumption that all customers would put in at least some flash, said Eric Herzog, senior vice president of product management and marketing. As before, the system can also be configured entirely with flash. "It's designed to make flash as fast as possible," Herzog said.

The software in the new generation of VNX is multithreaded and uses load balancing to spread its workload over all the cores in the system. That's a step up from the current software, which dedicates each core to one type of work. As a result, it can reach high utilization rates for all cores and not leave as much processing power unused. That's the key to its performance, he said.

"It's not just because they chips are getting faster, it's because all the cores are being used," Herzog said.

The performance gains from this and other improvements of the line are dramatic, according to EMC. With a similar configuration, a VNX from the current generation would top out at 240,000 IOPS (I/O operations per second) and the new version would reach 1.1 million IOPS, Herzog said. The VNX's bandwidth has tripled and its maximum capacity has doubled from 3PB to 6PB.

The result is that an enterprise can put more virtual machines on a VNX and its virtualized applications can run as much as four times faster, according to the company. EMC also says customers can get more bang for the buck. Because the new VNX uses processing power more efficiently, some enterprises will be able to buy a smaller VNX to do the same work, depending on the type of workload. EMC says this effect means a given customer could get the same performance for one-third the cost.

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