Disclaimer: I don’t work for EMC and I don’t have any inside information that any other customer or partner wouldn’t have. I also have no more influence over the product direction than any customer or partner would. The thoughts in this post are just my opinions.
Every now and then I get a little arrogant and do a post like this where I take my best stab at what I would do if I were the product manager/Chief Architect of a particular product. Since I’ve worked with the VNXe’s since they first hit the market, and since I’m working on other articles while I have one of the new VNXe3200’s I thought what the hell, let’s do a fictional roadmap of the VNXe series, as well as EMC storage in general.
What the VNXe3200 seems to be
The 3200 is clearly a new chapter in EMC’s book, in more ways than one. First off, all previous VNX / Clariion / VNXe systems have had a copy of MS Windows on them for one reason or another (yes even the VNX2’s that just came out last year). The VNXe3200 however does not, instead it runs the MCx code in user space above a linux kernel. If proven this could be a big step in avoiding royalty fees, as well as simplifying the architecture.
Secondly, the VNXe3200 is the first storage unit with the back-end of a VNX (meaning native block protocols) and a file side which does not require physically separate data movers or control stations…. IE it is “truly” unified; both block and file in the same sheet metal box. So I guess certain competitors are going to have to find something new to say about EMC.
Lastly because it is running MCx code just like its big brother the VNX2’s, EMC has yet again simplified their development responsibilities (remember last year when they merged the VNX and VMAX dev teams? http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/11/25/emc_reorgs/), so it’s not hard to see that a common code base is developing and could possible be used across all array platforms much like NetApp uses its ONTAP operating environment.
Overall this theoretically means that there really isn’t anything that a VNX can do that a VNXe cannot do. (more on this in the next section)
So what am I getting at?
Well in my opinion, the VNXe3200 is a test bed for what is to come. It is a ridiculously powerful platform that is running enterprise grade code… just with certain features turned off or hidden. If it works well, and EMC can prove that they don’t need external data movers and external control stations there is no reason why this architecture could not be rolled up into the VNX series. In fact I already told them that I think they should have called the VNXe3200 the VNX3200.
After talking with one of the guys at EMC about that name change, he explained that it did actually cross there mind, but when they compared what they were going to allow the VNXe3200 to do versus what their VNX systems are allowed to do; it just made more sense to leave the “e”.
So naturally my follow-up questions were “Well why disable all of these advanced features?” and “Why not allow me to go check a box somewhere in Unisphere that allows me to use a full on “VNX style” version of Unisphere… after all its the same MCx code right?” I obviously didn’t get an answer to any of those questions… it’s almost like they assume us bloggers are like “real” media or something, because product engineering and marketing guys always clam up when you start asking the good questions 🙂 LOL.
Lets put another spin on it…
Why not sell me an “advanced features” license for my “VNXe”3200 that turns it into a “VNX”3200?
Talk about software defined!
In fact you could even use that model in the VNX series too… make it so that the VNX5x00 series systems would only allow certain RAID configs, file or block protocols to be used, and certain settings to be customized; then if you have a SAN administrator, or need a consultant to configure some crazy settings you can add the advanced features license or the file services license. Now, before you start throwing things at your monitor because I’m mentioning more licensing, keep in mind that they wouldn’t necessarily need to charge more for this license… but if you dont need them then maybe the price would go down? Just food for thought mainly.
Now to really blow your mind (maybe), and prove my point from above…
The VNX5200 Unified array has an Intel E5-2600 series quad-core processor (each core runs at 1.2Ghz) and 16GB of ram in each storage processor. This is what powers the block side of the array. On the file side of the house, each data mover has an Intel 5600 series proc and 6GB of ram (core count not specified in this doc). So if you have two datamovers you have a total of 12GB of ram there, and system wide you have a total of 44GB of RAM (32GB Block Side, 12GB File Side) and at least 10 cores…. maybe 12 at the most. This is what powers BOTH block and file.
Enter the VNXe3200.
Each SP has 24 GB of ram, and a 2.2Ghz Sandy Bridge quad-core proc, for a total of 48GB of RAM and 8 cores. And if you pay attention to Intel’s marketing at all you know that Sandy Bridge is supposed to just kick the snot out of the 5600 series. So theoretically you have just as much horse power in the VNXe3200 as you do in the VNX5200 (and if you add up the GHz you actually have MORE in the VNXe3200 than the VNX5200). The main difference is that you only get one expansion option on the VNXe, where as on the VNX5200 you have multiple SLIC modules to expand it’s IO capabilities.
If we were at a bar and I was explaining this we would certainly be several beers deep at this point…. so please remember I am just a rambling idiot with a web server and a blog, I have no access to inside information about EMC’s road maps… so all of this is probably way off! BUT if somehow the stars align and my crystal ball proves right you can say you read it here first. Plus how awesome would it be to buy a VNX at a VNXe price point?