The review concerns EMC VPLEX product, which can be purchased/used in two different ways :
1) VPLEX Local
2) VPLEX Metro.
VPLEX Local is used to virtualize the storage locally, within the same data center.
With VPLEX Local, one possible use case is to mirror data between two local arrays. In this way if we lose one array then the data is still accessible to production server on the second local array.
With VPLEX Metro the data can be mirrored between two distant arrays, each one installed on a different data center. With this configuration even if we lose an overall data center (disaster condition), then the data is still available on the other site. This is an additional level of data security which permits to face up disaster conditions.
Another use case offered by VPLEX (either Local or Metro configurations) is transparent data migration.
Without VPLEX, the storage migration (or data migration) can be done in two ways:
- Host based : the host manages the data migration, consuming from its own resources (CPU, RAM etc). A downtime can be needed as part of the host based migration.
- Array based: migration is handled by the array, but a downtime has to be scheduled host side to discover the new storage.
With VPLEX we can migrate data from one array to another, or within the same array while a server is accessing data.
Improvements to My Organization:
I’ll give four examples:
- VPLEX Local configuration: We did experience a serious issue where a storage array needed to be rebooted on a production environment. Fortunately this array was encapsulated under VPLEX, and so we were able to migrate data to another array transparently to users, then reboot the problematic array. Finally we migrated back the data from the “spare array” to the source one. During all these operations no user was aware of migrations, and no downtime was consumed.
- VPLEX Local configuration: A new array was purchased then encapsulated under VPLEX. The new array had more performance than existing ones, so a data migration to the new storage was recommended from application owners to ameliorate performance. The data migration was done transparently and without application downtime.
- VPLEX Metro configuration: From a disaster recovery point of view, VPLEX Metro offers more security to data. We didn’t encounter a disaster yet, but we did test the failover of applications to a second site during implementation and the test was really convenient. I would also recommend adding RecoverPoint to the VPLEX Metro solution to add more security to production data.
- VPLEX deployed for RecoverPoint: We have EMC RecoverPoint that we use to replicate data from non EMC arrays to a VNX. In this case we have to encapsulate the non EMC array under VPLEX then use VPLEX Splitter to replicate data. Without VPLEX, use of RecoverPoint on non EMC arrays would not be possible.
Room for Improvement:
Much room for improvement exists. For example:
- Storage tiering cannot be handled by VPLEX, as it is performed by back end arrays. It would be great if we can configure tiering between arrays!
- When configuring a mirror (RAID1) device on two devices A & B, performance of the mirror depends on A & B individual performances. The response time of this mirror will be equal to the lowest response time of the A or B devices. It would be preferable that the mirror response time is equal to greater performance of single components, by setting a preferred access path for example (this feature exists on IBM SVC).
- No native data service exists on VPLEX (I mean snapshotting, replication features, etc). We have to buy other products such as ViPR to be able to use those features.
Use of Solution:
We have used this solution for four years.
We have not encountered any stability issues.
We have not encountered any scalability issues.
The level of technical support is 10/10. Over four years we didn’t encounter any issues with VPLEX technical support.
SVC was used locally. VPLEX Metro has unique capabilities so we switched to VPLEX Metro as we had to implement a two active data center architecture.
The initial setup was not really complex. The only difficulty was to plan downtimes for each platform, as the initial encapsulation requires a new storage discovery from the host perspective.
Pricing, Setup Cost and Licensing:
Regarding licensing, VPLEX uses capacity licensing. I think before purchasing the VPLEX you must study your data growth over the next five years and from the beginning order the overall capacity licenses. Extensions as much more expansive than the first purchase.
Other Solutions Considered:
We determined that no other products offered VPLEX Metro capabilities in 2012. The only possibility to implement Metro features without VPLEX is to use Symantec Volume Manager software, but this is a software solution, without cache options and with more licenses to purchase, and more deployments to implement. VPLEX Metro was the only solution for our targeted architecture.
VPLEX offers a large compatibility matrix and valuable features. The technical support is also appreciated for this product so I would encourage others to purchase it.
VPLEX would not be your best solution, only if you want to implement tiering between arrays. If you use VPLEX the storage tiering will be handled on back end arrays. Other use cases can be implemented with VPLEX, individually or with other EMC DELL products.
Also if you plan to use RecoverPoint Replication features on non EMC arrays, then you have to encapsulate those arrays under VPLEX. So if you have a plan to deploy a Disasater Recovery Plan within a few years, you should start to think about it now. If RecoverPoint is your preferred solution and you have non EMC arrays, purchase VPLEX from the beginning.
Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: In reality we are an EMC DELL partner, and we sell EMC products to our customers. All examples discussed previously in this review were examples implemented for our customers.