EMC VNXe 3100: My First Look

Last week I unboxed my first EMC VNXe 3100 SAN for a client. At first glance the VNXe looks much like the Clariion AX4, the only thing that is different (physically) is the front bezel and the interfaces on the controllers. Once you power it on though…it’s a whole different story.

Let me just say that Unisphere is a much-needed improvement over the previous generation interface (Navisphere Express for this price range). It’s very easy to understand and the VMware integration is unmatched! There is a wizard for creating a new VMware datastore that not only provisions the SAN but will also go out and adds the needed initiator/target information to each ESXi host and then makes the host rescan its HBA’s and find the new LUN: AWESOME! It doesn’t stop there either, instead of having to discover initiator IQN numbers or making you add them manually… Unisphere allows you to enter your vCenter server information and it will go out and look for all the hosts you have and then get their IQN numbers! This is some pretty sweet stuff.

Besides VMware datastores there are also wizards for other purposes too, here is a screenshot:

So if you’re on the dark side (Hyper-V) then there is a wizard for that, and well as one for setting up an area for a Microsoft Exchange store.

While setting this thing up I found that it was super easy to get the license key installed. When the initial management IP addresses and stuff were set up it asked to go out on the internet and register the SAN, and then it provided a link to a license file. I downloaded the license file and then it went right back to the Unisphere interface and was like … click here to upload the license. I uploaded it and it unlocked all sorts of fun features, I managed to find a list of features and if they are included in the base license or if they are an upgrade. (Also included but not in the chart is the deduplication license)


Getting into the meat

After running what seemed like 10 start-up wizards it finally asked me if I wanted it to automatically provision a hot spare and a storage pool… I figured sure why not, after all it probably knows better then I do on how to set itself up right? Well after letting it settle down I was able to get in and take a look at what it did. Before I get into that too much though let me give you some details on the hardware in the SAN I am using. It has 24 – 300GB 15k RPM SAS drives, they are the 3.5″ drives and 12 are located in an expansion DAE. It is also equipped with the additional 4 port 1GB iSCSI interface cards and redundant controllers.

Anyhow, after letting the auto provision wizard run I noticed a new Hot-Spare pool along with a “Performance Pool”. I also noticed an “Unused Drives” pool. When I opened it up I noticed there were 3 drives that had not been used, I thought … well, how odd is that… why would it leave disks unused if I told it to auto-provision. Well after talking with EMC and also finding this document, I learned that the VNXe3100 is only scalable in a limited number of ways. Depending on the type of disk you have, and the type of pool you want, you are required to add drives to that pool in a certain order. (Check page 19 of the document for details, but basically, when you do a RAID5 pool you have to add disks in groups of 5, RAID10 is groups of 6)

Also because this SAN is designed for the guy who doesn’t have a storage admin, you don’t get to pick which drives are used for which storage pools. Maybe I am just being too picky… or maybe I just got spoiled when I got to mess around with the P2000 SAN, but either way I do not like how the EMC makes the number of drives static. I’m told however that the larger models of VNX’s are less restrictive because they are designed for people who have SAN administration experience…. I guess only time will tell… so I’ll keep you posted after I get my hands on one.


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26 Responses to "EMC VNXe 3100: My First Look"

  1. Justin,

    I’ve been playing around with a 3100 the last couple of weeks, and I noticed that read performance takes about a 50% hit after creating a snapshot on a CIFS volume. Have you experienced anything like that in your testing as well? EMC tells me they won’t help us until it’s into a production environment, but I don’t want to roll this out if simple CIFS copies are underperforming.


  2. Unfortunately I did not test CIFS on the VNXe3100. The last time that I tried to use CIFS through the Celerra it proved to have too many limitations for what I was doing. Instead we presented the same space through a windows file server for better quote management support

  3. I am currently working with this devices. but unfortunately I was unable to configure RAID 10 … the default configuration is showing RAID 5 . Please help me to solve this problem as soon as possible. Does this device really support RAID 10 or not ???

  4. I’m contemplating getting one of these for my work! I’m quite impressed with the supposed ease of setting up different storage (nfs, iscsi etc) all in the one unit. Keep us posted on your experiences with it…

  5. Hey Justin, we are looking at a 3100, for an archive storage in NFS, current dl380 is getin a bit over tired, these storage pools have me concerned, does this mean the size of a folder is limited? or can we slam all 12 600G drives into one big raid 10 partition like now so we only have one huge directory, or do we need make it many dirs?

  6. With 12 drives you should be able to put all of them into a single RAID10 pool, then create one large NFS share from that pool. I believe there is a maximum number of drives per storage pool, but you would have to check with EMC to see what that limit is.

  7. Justin,
    Came across your blog recently whilst looking for comparisons between the MSA 2000 G3 and the EMC VNXe 3100. I have already subscribed, loads of excellent content!
    I am basically about to buy a SAN/Unified storage system for our school to replace an underperforming QNAP NAS acting as an iSCSI target for hyper v (I already get the impression you dislike hyper v – but lets not dwell on that).
    Alot of people are recommending the EMC over the HP, but with its current 50% cashback on unit and 50% back on first four disks it is a bit of a bargain.
    Do you really think there is £2000 difference between them? – Talking about the 10gbe iscsi LFF model.

  8. If you want to compare 10gig to 10Gig price out the VNXe3300…. that has a 10gig option.

    Both the VNXe and the P2000 are alright boxes, however the VNXe is unable to do VAAI for iSCSI because it is an emulated iSCSI, so in order to take advantage of stuff like that you would have to use NFS on the VNXe.

    Personally if i had to chose between the two i would purchase on price as i like both.

  9. Justin,
    You’ve got a great blog !
    I’m currently deciding between the EMC VNXe and HP P2000 G3.
    I have 2 ESXi hosts running on DL380 G5’s with local storage.
    I run about 10 VM’s between the 2 hosts?
    Can you please advice on which interface I should go for? Will the SAS model suffice?
    Does the G5 support SAS HBA’s,10GBe nics or 8Gbps FC HBA’S or do I have to upgrade to a G6?

  10. The G5 servers will support the SAS HBA card, it should also support 10gig cards, but just remember that the G5 has the 1.0 PCIe spec… not 2.0 so there isnt as much bandwidth available as with 2.0

    Here is how I see the SAN choice going:

    If you have Enterprise VMware licensing then VAAI is something you will want to use… if that is the case then go with the P2000 because the VNXe series does not yet support VAAI for iSCSI.

    If you do not want to use iSCSI, and want the extra speed of SAS then obviously the P2000 is the way to go too. Also the P2000 does not have the drive restrictions that the VNXe does either…. VNXe can only create storage pools in “packs” of drives. The P2000 will let you do anything you want so it is much more flexible.

    The are only two features on the VNXe that would make that the winner in my opinion:
    1.) File protocols… NFS and CIFS if you want those you will only find them on the VNXe
    2.) more advanced local and remote protection suites… you will pay extra, but if you want local snapshots or remote replication the VNXe will have be a little more advanced.

    Personally I like to use Veeam or VMware level snapshots for backup and replication, and i like iSCSI better then NFS (SAS/FC are nice too cause they are fast), so for me its a P2000 win hands down… but that’s just me personally.

  11. Thanks Justin, that was very useful.
    I was leaning towards the P2000 G3 too !
    Does the P2000 take normal Seagate SATA drives or do I have to buy only the HP branded drives?


  12. Well both the 2.5″ version and the 3.5″ chassis will take any drive you put in them, but the catch is this:

    the 2.5″ chassis uses standard proliant G5-G7 hard drive caddies, the 3.5″ chassis however takes special caddies that are much longer. You can get them through distribution like ingram micro, but i do not recall what the part number was .

  13. Thank you for writing this blog. I’m also comparing VNXe to P2000 G3 — do you still recommend the P2000 if one does not need/want a lot of advanced features?? Also would you please comment about using SAS vs. NL-SAS/SATA drives on either SAN?? — assuming it’s an Exchange server or file server?? Would end users really notice the difference?? Thank you, Tom

  14. Hello justin I know that this post is a bit old, recently a friend of mine gave me 2 vnxe 3100 but they only have slave controller cards, could you tell me what I can do to make use of these vnxe. As I was reading I must have at least one processing unit and I doubt if a processing unit will be enough to control the rest? Another option that I do not know if it would work is buy a controller for PC SAS HBA and external cable sas connect to the vnxe 3100 and use it as a dock and then acces to the hard drives sas … maybe it’s crazy but I do not know. I would appreciate your help. regards

  15. Hey Alejandro,

    It sounds like you have some of the disk shelves (DAE’s) and not the actual VNXe (DPE). It is possible to get a host bus adapter and plug the DAE’s into the HBA. It will show up as a SAS expander and the disks are generally visible.

    However, in my experience, you will need an HBA and NOT a RAID card because you will need to low level format each disk with the seagate tools. This is because EMC disks use a 520 byte sector size, instead of a 512 byte sector size.

  16. thanks for the answer, now another question and to clarify I have 2 equal to the example you put in this post … as slaves of the 3100 the 2 above and my question is: why have 2 cards? for redundancy? and the second connector they have is to put more cascade? Could I connect the first one to my card and in the 2nd port pull another cable to my other 3100? without using the connectors on the right side, I say this assuming they are for redundancy. greetings and many thanks
    Pd: the modelo os EAE

  17. they are called link control cards. there are two “Chains” for redundancy.

    You would want to do something like:
    HBA -> Shelf1-LCCA-Port1 – > Shelf1-LCCA-Port2 -> Shelf2-LCCA-Port1

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