Dell EMC PowerMax NVMe Review

Highly resilient with excellent performance and deduplication plus compression capabilities


What is our primary use case?

We are primarily using the solution to drive components of an e-trading (electronic trading) platform.

How has it helped my organization?

The solution has reduced our time-to-market with a single management interface, and it is a very efficient platform. Provides great improvements in operational resilience, aligning us with our direct competitors in global markets. We are ahead in some areas as a result of the deployment of this platform.

What is most valuable?

Uptime and availability are first and foremost. The deduplication and compression capabilities are also excellent, allowing us to be very efficient with the physical hardware that we need to deploy on-prem in order to fulfill our requirements. It has given us excellent value for money without compromising performance.

The solution's snapshot capabilities and replication are very good features. Snapshots are allowing us to quickly build analytical models directly from production data. This gives us amazing insights into market trends and allows us to build more effective trading algorithms. Replication offers us unparalleled levels of resilience.

The management overall is excellent. Dell EMC continues to build on very solid foundations, which have been evolving for over two decades. 

The REST APIs are great.

The solution exposes excellent automation opportunities.

We have found the performance to be very good so far.

What needs improvement?

It's a relatively new product, but for the next release I would like to see higher bandwidth on the front-end adapters. This would allow even greater scalability for critical workloads and consolidation for non-critical workloads. The hosts may not require that level of I/O performance today. However, it allows us to scale physical non-cloud environments without large investment. 

For how long have I used the solution?

We are about eight months into our deployment. It's still a rather new solution for us, although we have had some time to get to know it.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

With six nines, we have reduced our maximum annual downtime to around 32 seconds (previously around 48 minutes). From a stability point of view, I have absolutely no issues or complaints there at all.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

It's an e-trading platform. Therefore, there are no end users involved. It's about half a petabyte in size.

In terms of scalability potential, it is first class. With the level of performance it gives you and the response time that we get from the arrays, the scalability is groundbreaking.

How are customer service and technical support?

I was very impressed with the support overall. They understand customer service. They have never made me wait for anything. Things do go bump. Challenges and unpredictable circumstances do arise. I rate the Dell EMC team based on their prompt and decisive action during these circumstances.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We did previously use a different solution.

We switched to take advantage of certain feature sets. Our previous competitor, whilst they did offer deduplication and compression to some degree, could not match the availability nor performance and didn't have the same guaranteed efficiency ratios. They also couldn't perform inline compression without significant performance penalties. This would have to happen at rest and offline. Therefore, we'd need to write the data first, then compress it. The PowerMax solution enabled us to do that inline, without a read or write penalty. Basically, there was no performance impact, and we still saw all the benefits from a reduced physical footprint, such as, cost savings, reduced power requirements, and fewer components to fail (number of drives required being 66 percent lower).

How was the initial setup?

The deployment process is a standard procedure for deploying SAN, and that's with any vendor. I'd say that the process wasn't any different from deploying another solution. We've got our architecture and our blueprints. We worked with a solutions architect and that design drives the configuration, and then we go ahead and deploy that configuration.

Deployment took around three months. Some of this was due to internal processes, timing, and pandemic conditions. Over December, we were hampered with end-of-year change control freezes in place so some of the activity couldn't get done. All in all, I'd say we probably could have been done in about six to eight weeks.

I had three people working on this internally (not counting the non storage resources) as we deployed to two geographies in different time zones. 

Maintenance is just ongoing service and that'd be the same as any technological asset. It has a mean time before failure. We monitor it on a daily basis. Alerts are actioned with the vendor. However, the platform does have five-nines of availability  and multiple layers of redundancy.

What about the implementation team?

We did not use an integrator, consultant, or implementor during deployment. We worked with a solutions architect to build the configuration. We then worked with our project office to coordinate and complete that deployment.

What was our ROI?

Six months in, we have ROI. Some key metrics are: 

  • Increased uptime and availability, 
  • Reduced man-hours for support and provisioning (approximately 30 percent reduction in overall management hours required).

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

Pricing will very much depend on an organization's terms and conditions with the vendor. Therefore, I couldn't really give any concrete pricing to quote. I'd just advise CTO/Technology leaders to negotiate hard and consider the commercial advantages/benefits to Dell EMC for onboarding their product. 

Be very thorough about your criteria (functional and non-functional requirements) and what you're looking to achieve. Test, test, test! Do the due diligence and test comparable solutions head-to-head. In our use case, PowerMax was the best solution. However, that doesn't necessarily mean it would be the best solution for every scenario. You really do have to do the work, the engineering and architecture, then test the products head-to-head to see if this solution really does solve your business requirement.

The licensing again depends on the agreements they've got in place with your organization. For example, we know we've got a large and global agreement with Dell, and therefore, our pricing and discounting structure might be different from a small to medium business or another enterprise.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We did look at other options. We tested it head-to-head with two other vendors in a lab with identical conditions. We basically looked at the top five storage vendors on the market and shortlisted three.

The cons were the fact that it was really an internal process. Qualifying a new platform, through engineering and getting that through governance and architecture is a detailed and time consuming process. Those were the cons. In terms of pros, the technological features available, including the compression ratios, were excellent. The performance itself, the out-and-out, the horsepower of the platform, is where PowerMax did significantly outperform the other solutions we put it up against. However, most importantly, it was that uptime and availability which pushed it ahead. The inline deduplication and compression capabilities also significantly outperformed its competitors.

What other advice do I have?

We are customers of Dell EMC.

We are using the PowerMax 2000.

My advice to other organizations considering the solution is to fully understand your use case, and test it. Make sure your functional and non-functional requirements are complete, understood, and documented with input and agreement from your internal stakeholders

Definitely support your teams with education and training, even internal workshops. This will help make any transitioning smooth - a great tech solution can evaporate very quickly if your teams are not onboard and up to speed on day one.

You need to have a good people strategy and processes before you start running away with the technology!

Overall, I would rate the solution as an eight out of 10.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

On-premises
**Disclosure: IT Central Station contacted the reviewer to collect the review and to validate authenticity. The reviewer was referred by the vendor, but the review is not subject to editing or approval by the vendor.
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