Background to PowerStore
The acquisition of EMC (which also owned VMware) in 2016 by Dell resulted in the organisation having a packed mid-range storage offering. The integration meant that by 2020, Dell EMC’s mid-range storage line consisted of Unity XT, SC Series (Compellent) and XtremIO (and previously VNX and EqualLogic, before being discontinued). Whilst product innovations have been made in the following years – such as the 2019 release of Unity XT – the hype surrounding PowerStore is noticeably different.
Dell Technologies spent approximately $4.5bn on research and development in 2019. With the huge annual investment in R&D, expectations were rightly high for PowerStore.
PowerStore at a glance
There are PowerStore product lines: The T series and X series. The T series appears to be a traditional primary storage appliance, which follows Unity’s lead in combining elements of block and file storage in one platform. This platform seems suited to traditional and modern databases and applications. The X series (according to the specs) does not appear to have file storage capabilities (perhaps sacrificed due to one of the innovations referenced below), and is designed for use in data intensive environments. Both series are available in five models (1000, 3000, 5000, 7000, 9000), so the configurations will cover numerous workloads.
So what differentiates PowerStore from the likes of NetApp’s AFF, Pure Storage’s FlashArray or HPE’s Nimble? From what I can see, there are two key differentiators – both of which appear to set the product apart in the market.
Two features that set PowerStore apart
Through capability known as ‘AppsON’, the PowerStore X series is the only purpose-built array with a built-in VMware ESXi hypervisor. For me, this is a shrewd move by Dell Technologies. VMware dominates the hypervisor market (with an estimated 80% market share), and are a key option for many organisations adopting a hybrid-cloud approach.
No other solution has capability to run VMware virtualized applications natively. Dell Technologies boasts PowerStore “vastly improves VMware virtualized application flexibility by enabling application mobility between PowerStore and other VMware targets”.PowerStore combines the best features of Dell’s existing mid-range platforms, with the SC series and XtremIO slowly being phased out of the portfolio (leaving PowerStore and Unity XT). For any existing Compellent or XtremIO customer, PowerStore appears to be the migration platform of choice.
We’ve seen Dell Technologies utilise their integration with VMware highly effectively before. Their hyper-converged appliance offering VxRail, which is the only fully integrated, pre-configured and pre-tested VMware hyperconverged system, powered with VMware’s vSAN software. Dell Technologies and VMware are market leaders in both HCI appliances and HCI software respectively, despite stiff competition.
2. Anytime Upgrades
The ‘Anytime Upgrades’ program is designed to expand and enhance PowerStore over time, providing greater choice, predictability and investment protection. Together with PowerStore, Anytime Upgrades offers adaptable architecture that effectively ends the traditional cycle of disruptive platform migration with simple, flexible data-in-place upgrades — without downtime or impact to applications. And unlike other programs, Anytime Upgrades may also be executed after just 180 days of commencing your service contract.
That is potentially a huge development. Storage appliances typically have a five year cycle, and many organisations would run the same technology throughout this cycle. They could then refresh their existing datacentre environment or consider public/hybrid cloud. In fact, Dell EMC Cloud Storage Services can directly connect PowerStore to all major public clouds, including Amazon Web Services (AWS), Azure and Google Cloud as a managed service. Cloud Storage Services provide Data Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) to VMware Cloud on AWS. With anytime upgrades, Dell have created a storage appliance that appears future proof.
Anytime Upgrades are available in three options:
- Next-Gen: Upgrade appliance nodes (controllers) to the next generation equivalent models
- Higher Model: Upgrade to more powerful nodes within the current generation
- Scale-Out: Apply a discount to expand your environment with a second appliance equal to the current model
Other Benefits of PowerStore
Reduced TCO – By leveraging existing storage investments, people skills, and operational procedures, the overall cost of application deployments utilizing PowerStore in VMware environments and with VMware Cloud Foundation can be reduced.
Scale up and scale out – independently add capacity or processing power.
Flexible consumption – choice, predictability and investment protection with pay-per-use solutions and data-in-place upgrades.