Dell EMC PowerMax NVMe Review

With the SCM memory, it has been set it and forget it

What is our primary use case?

We currently use PowerMax NVMe for our file server and all our VMs. It is a SAN, so all of our storage or data sits on it. It is just a great storage appliance.

How has it helped my organization?

With the SCM memory, it has been set it and forget it. It is being used as a cache drive. There is very little configuration for us to do. We just know that it is working.

PowerMax NVMe's QoS capabilities give us a lot of visibility into taking a look at what could be a potential performance issue. However, because it is so fast, we haven't really noticed any slowdowns from the date of deployment even until today.

It is a very good storage appliance for enterprise-level, mission-critical IT workloads because of its high redundancy, parity drives. It gives us the ability to not worry about our data. Or, if something were to go wrong, e.g., a drive pops, then we have our mission-critical warranty. We get a drive the same day, then get it swapped by the next business day at the latest.

PowerMax NVMe has made it a lot easier to understand how much we are able to provision. It has made it a lot faster to provision new things. 90% of my time for provisioning has been reduced. Also, it has made it very easy to understand and see everything behind it versus the older heritage, where Dell EMC was very convoluted and hard to get working. Things that used to take an hour, probably now take five to 10 minutes.

What is most valuable?

  • The cost of the entire solution
  • Their dedupe rates
  • Ease of use
  • Simplicity

Data availability is very high. Data security is also very good. There are a lot of encryption methods available.

We use the solution’s NVMe SCM storage tier feature. There is almost no overhead or management time involved. It was kind of set it and forget it.

What needs improvement?

The visibility within the storage resource tools or understanding the utilization of the SCM memory have been pain points. We know they are being used, but it is hard to actually see them within the actual GUI.

Firmware updates are a bit painful because you have to involve their support, as opposed to having the ability to do it yourself. This is probably for the best because you don't want something to go sideways while being the only person working on this and not having external support for it.

For how long have I used the solution?

We have been using the physical appliance for a year and a half.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

It is a very robust, stable machine. We have had no worries whatsoever.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

At this time, scalability is not applicable. I understand it is very easy to scale up. You just add on the drive shelf, then connect it in. That is really it. Now, you have all these drives available to you.

It is being used every single minute of every single day. The IOPs, the throughput data, is about 525 megabytes per second. So, it is actively being used at all times of day.

As time goes on, the usage of it will increase. That is just the nature of it being our primary storage array.

How are customer service and technical support?

The technical support was very good. There have been no real issues. Any questions we have had, they were able to answer and assist with. There have been no problems whatsoever.

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

Because it is NVMe, it is extremely fast. It is a lot faster than our old SAN. It is hard to compare it to others in the market, only because we have never owned other products within the same generation. We switched to PowerMax NVMe because of aging hardware.

Prior, we were using a regular 7200 RPM disk. As a result, it was extremely slow. The upgrade to NVMe has been much appreciated by the company. Things that used to take four to five hours are now taking 15 minutes, if that.

How was the initial setup?

It was a pretty complex process in the beginning: migrating data, verifying everything is good to go, standing up our volumes, and things of that nature. Once everything got going, it was a lot easier to understand and manage.

Deployment took about two weeks’ time, not including transfer times. With transfer times, it was closer to a month.

We set up our PowerMax, attached the source to VMware, and then migrated all of our VMs off of our old storage array into the new one. Once we verified everything was good, we turned off the old storage array and went from there.

What about the implementation team?

We did it through Dell EMC ProDeploy, which is their professional services for this type of work. Our experience with them was very good. There were a couple of hiccups here and there, but it was more related to what was shipped to us, opposed to an actual hiccup with the implementation process.

What was our ROI?

We have seen ROI based on time saved by being able to use a faster storage array versus our really slow, old one.

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

In terms of price-performance, it beat out other competitors when we were taking a look and comparing it to the market. That was one of the biggest driving points for us.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We did look at HPE Nimble Storage as well as Pure Storage. Pure Storage was probably the biggest competitor. At the time, we just wanted something that was a little bit more tried and true versus a new player in the storage array game.

Pure Storage did offer a couple of very niche tools related to SAP. PowerMax NVMe just came in very aggressively with their pricing, and that ultimately won them the business. 

What other advice do I have?

PowerMax NVMe is very energy intensive, in terms of electricity. You need to spec that out properly. Just because it can fit in the rack doesn't mean it will work by sitting in the rack. You will probably need additional power, specifically just for PowerMax NVMe.

It isn't important at this very specific moment that the solution provides NVMe scale out capabilities. However, it will be once we decide to add more drives into this and expand our storage.

I would rate this solution as a nine (out of 10). There are definitely areas of improvement, but everything comes down to time and cost.

Which version of this solution are you currently using?

PowerMax 2000
**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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