Dell EMC PowerMax NVMe Review

We were able to move off of Exadata and AIX and consolidate down to one storage platform

What is our primary use case?

We used it for Oracle Databases. The customer for which we did the PoC of PowerMax is planning on deploying mission-critical applications on this solution: Oracle workloads such as their quoting system and their data warehouse.

How has it helped my organization?

As a partner, we don't have PowerMax in-house but for my customers the SRDF replication is an advantage. The ability to have a scalable, all-flash array is pretty impressive. That's important for our customers.

In terms of helping to consolidate islands of storage in a data center, the use case for the particular customer for whom we did the PoC was to move off of an Exadata environment and to move off of an AIX environment and consolidate those down to one storage platform. PowerMax did that.

It is meeting our customer's requirements. They had several large Oracle databases that needed to move over, including from Exadata. Exadata is one of Oracle's fastest systems in terms of Oracle Database workloads. Our customer had to be able to hit certain timelines for jobs that would run. For example, they are running a quote database and they had to be able to hit the same timelines for jobs that were running within that, or better. As a part of the consolidation, the end goal was to limit their licensing on the front end. Being able to consolidate down into that one footprint on the back end helped them save money on the front end.

When it comes to managing and monitoring PowerMax arrays, the interface has really improved compared to the old VMAX. Getting into the interface and finding out if there are any issues with the array is a lot simpler and more streamlined.

What is most valuable?

The SRDF replication piece is probably the best feature. It's useful for maintaining recoverability in the event of a disaster.

What needs improvement?

I would like to see more cache because we are limited to two terabytes of cache now. More cache would potentially help drive better improvements in performance.

Also, when it comes to Oracle and database workloads, data reduction could be a little bit better. Some of the competition, like Pure, have post-processes which do additional deduplication and compression on the backside; everything is in-line and then they do a secondary process. It would be a good option if you could start getting 5:1 or 6:1 data reduction on database workloads. That would be beneficial.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Since our use of PowerMax was just a PoC, we didn't really have any issues with the with stability. We didn't run it for a long time, it was a 30-day PoC. There wasn't a lot of time to really explore that area. During the PoC it was fine, it was perfect, we didn't have any issues.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

The ability to add additional engines, additional SSDs, is really a benefit to the customer. You can grow it as you need to.

The PowerMax architecture influenced the buying decision. The ability to grow, to scale from single-engine to multi-engine, was probably the biggest factor in that.

How are customer service and technical support?

Tech support for PowerMax was pretty good. They came out and set it up and did the install. That took a day. We did have a problem with one of the compression modules and they had it out there and fixed the next day. It was during the install that they uncovered that. We weren't using the array yet anyway, so it was just a byproduct of the installation process.

How was the initial setup?

The improvements to the interface have really been great. It's very simple to set up and configure the storage volumes, whether it's a Fibre Channel volume or an iSCSI volume.

The initial setup was straightforward. I did the setup of the iSCSI volumes to the host and it was it took me less than an hour to do that.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We were initially doing a PoC and comparing PowerMax against other arrays: NetApp, XtremIO X2, and Pure. We were doing a performance benchmark and it came in second compared to XtremIO X2, so it did a good job.

What other advice do I have?

I would give PowerMax a nine out of ten, only because we had that single issue with the compression module failing. Otherwise, it did exactly what we wanted it to. It wasn't as fast as the XtremIO, but we didn't think it was going to be as fast as that in the first place. The XtremIO was somewhat oversized. So from a performance standpoint, we were very happy with it.

Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: Partner.

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