EMC 2010 May 11 Unisphere, FAST Cache, FAST and other enhancements

In Celerra, CLARiion, Dell EMC by Administrator

New EMC Unisphere, FAST Cache, FAST and other enhancements

EMC® recently announced updates to their CLARiiON® and Celerra® management service which they have now combined into Unisphere, as well as a new SSD cache option for both systems. Additional, FAST for sub-LUN and other enhancements are now available for CLARiiON and Celerra NS systems.

Unisphere

EMC has taken Navisphere and Celerra’s management console and combined them into one management GUI.  This software will be shipped free of charge for all current maintenance holders of the Celerra and CLARiiON subsystems and provides uniform management for both.  It will manage Celerra’s snapshotting and replication capabilities as well as CLARiiON’s similar functionality.  Unisphere can also interface via a plug-in with vCenter and other system management frameworks to facilitate ease of monitoring and use of EMC’s midrange storage offerings.

CLARiiON & Celerra FAST Cache

EMC announced FAST Cache, a new facility for midrange storage, which allows a SSD to virtually extend subsystem cache.  Such a service increases the caching capacity of the current system and can be used to service all I/O occurring through the subsystem.  FAST Cache is quite different than using a “normal” SSD drive.  With FAST Cache data is temporarily copied from spinning disk to FAST Cache for read misses or temporarily written into FAST Cache and later flushed to disk.  The data cached by FAST Cache is persistently stored on SSD drives dedicated for FAST Cache.

FAST Cache detects data being staged from spinning disk and then promotes such data from disk to SSD cache.  Once located there, subsequent reads and/or writes are processed at SSD speeds.  As this I/O may potentially involve heavy write activity, using SLC based SSDs for FAST Cache storage is advisable.

Other Enhancements

  • Unisphere for CLARiiON and Celerra – supports the new set of VMware APIs for Array Integration (VAAI) for vCenter services that allow a VMware administrator to monitor and work with EMC storage directly.
  • End to end encryption for CLARiiON and Celerra– encrypts data at the host via HBA-assisted encryption (as an option), which will be kept encrypted throughout the data path and while on disk.  RSA key manager supplies key management.  This does require a special HBA available only from Emulex.
  • Data Protection Advisor – monitors, alerts and reports on replication gaps in CLARiiON (and Symmetrix) environments, providing root cause for customer intervention.

For Celerra unified storage and standalone CLARiiON storage, EMC announced the following:

  • FAST – provides automated, sub-LUN (1GB chunks) migration among SATA disk, fibre channel disk and SSDs.  Advanced FAST will monitor a designated pool of storage defined across multiple storage disks and move data from one disk to the other as it becomes “hot” or “cold”.  This capability can also specify relocations for capacity optimization or can be used to select tier preference, such as to a SSD.
  • Data Compression – compresses data on a LUN basis and is performed in the background when specified. Data is decompressed on the fly when read.  This capability is not intended for high activity data but can be used to drastically reduce data storage footprint (EMC showed varying results) but generally one can expect ~50% reduction in storage required to hold data.  The compression algorithm is based on EMC’s RecoverPoint appliance. 

Announcement significance

EMC’s CEO, Joe Tucci announced that they are on a path to provide a unified (block and file) storage system sometime in the near future.  Unisphere can be viewed as yet another step in that direction.

FAST Cache is interesting. How this plays with CLARiiON’s & Celerra’s normal cache will need to await further disclosure and benchmarking.  However, it’s a reasonable enhancement that gives users a new choice on how to use SSD storage.

Also, it’s nice to see primary data compression come around again but as a software implementation, it will impact latency when reading compressed data.  This can be masked somewhat by less data being transferred into cache.  Nevertheless, it does provide another new capability to reduce data storage footprint and as such, can be a useful facility. To our knowledge this is the first primary data compression to come out since STK’s Iceberg/IBM RVA.

There is some overarching theme here.  Mostly software-oriented changes are being made to the CLARiiON and Celerra NS systems making them more accommodating to diverse I/O and storage workloads.  While also at the same time changes are made to automate feature use, unify management and integrate it into higher-level operational environments, making it all much easier to manage.  Adding flexibility and easing management sounds like a winning combination to us.

A PDF version of this can be found at

2010 May 11 EMC announces new Unisphere, FAST Cache, FAST and other enhancements

Silverton Consulting, Inc. is a Storage, Strategy & Systems consulting services company, based in the USA offering products and services to the data storage community.