Dell Boosts Flexibility, Security of PowerScale Storage Systems

Dell Technologies last year launched its PowerScale family of storage products aimed at managing the growing amounts of unstructured data that enterprises are generating.

The challenges presented by unstructured data — including images, videos, social media content, data from the Internet of Things (IoT) devices and texts — is that there is a lot of it and it’s difficult to corral. It’s created and housed outside of corporate databases and data warehouses, beyond traditional firewalls in the cloud and at the edge.

PowerScale was created to give organizations greater capabilities and flexibility when dealing with unstructured data. Dell this week introduced new appliances and enhancements to the operating system and management and security software to increase that flexibility and complete the refresh of the Isilon storage line that the company inherited when it bought storage giant EMC for more than $60 billion in 2016.

Flexibility is Key

In a blog post, David Noy, vice president of product management at Dell, noted a recent IDC survey that found that the key trend in file-based storage is the need for flexibility. That includes “the ability to easily support a mix of enterprise file-based workloads and be ready for any workload including demanding and modern workloads such as [artificial intelligence, machine learning and deep learning] or traditional use cases like file consolidation and archives,” Noy wrote.

Flexibility also means supporting mixed media, nondisruptive scalability, ease of public cloud integration, multiple access methods, and the providing different deployment models.

Enterprises already are being overwhelmed with the amount of data that’s being generated. IDC analysts have said that they expect 175 zettabytes of data to be created in 2025 and in another report said that by that year, 80 percent of the data will be unstructured. More than half of the data will come from IoT and 49 percent will be housed in the cloud.

Given that, Charles King, principal analyst with Pund-IT, agreed that flexibility has become important when talking about unstructured data, which is resulting in massive volumes of data as well as storage, management, and security headaches for organizations.

“At one point, it seemed sensible for vendors to create separate platforms to deal with the unique aspects of different unstructured data types,” King told Enterprise Storage Forum. “Dell went in a different direction with PowerScale, developing a unified platform that was flexible enough to address various workloads and use cases. Though technically challenging, that approach offers customers numerous management, performance and maintenance benefits.”

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PowerScale’s Architecture

With the PowerScale scale-out NAS solutions, Dell essentially detached the OneFS storage OS from the Isilon system, enabling the vendor to couple it with its DataIQ data management software and run them on standard PowerEdge servers. Dell in 2020 launched PowerScale with the all-flash F200 and F600 nodes and in May came out with the F900, which includes all-flash and all-NVMe configurations.

The all-flash nodes are optimized for performance by offering support for Nvidia’s GPUDirect technology for such modern workloads as AI, machine learning, analytics and genome sequencing, with throughput scaling linearly up to 252GB/s.

New PowerScale Hardware

Now the vendor is rolling out new offerings, including the PowerScale hybrid H700 and H7000 nodes and A300 and A3000 archive nodes. They provide more cores, memory and cache, as well as additional networking options. The H700 offers a capacity of up to 960TB per chassis, while the H7000 offers up to 1,280TB per chassis and is designed for consolidating a range of file workloads on a single platform. Both join the Isilon H400, H500, H600, and H5600 in Dell’s family of PoweScale hybrid storage.

The A300 and A3000, along with the Isilon A200 and A2000, make up the vendor’s PowerScale archive portfolio. The A300 includes high performance, near-primary accessibility and ease of use, with 120TB to 960TB per chassis of capacity and scalability to 60PB in a single cluster. The A3000 offers deep archive storage, with up to 1,280TB per chassis and scalability to 80PB in a cluster.

Dell also is offering enhancements to OneFS and DataIQ aimed at expanding storage management, performance monitoring, auditing and compliance capabilities to simplify storage at scale, according to Foy. In OneFS, upgrades coming later this quarter include writable snapshots, secure boot, faster upgrades and improved data reduction. With DataIQ, there are user interface enhancements for easier navigation and the ability to run reports to analyze volumes by time stamps.

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Bulked-Up Security

Security enhancements are another focus for Dell. The company noted that ransomware attacks are occurring every 11 seconds (a stat discovered by Cybersecurity Ventures), and found in a report released this month that organizations are managing 10 times the amount of data than they did five years ago and that 62 percent of IT professionals surveyed are concerned their existing data protection solutions may not be able to address cyberthreats. In addition, 74 percent said they are more exposed to data loss with more employees working from home.

Pund-IT’s King said such concerns are well-founded.

“Traditional security solutions can effectively address many commonplace threats but have been less effective in protecting organizations from evolving cyberattacks,” he said. “Since business applications and workloads are becoming increasingly abstracted via execution in [virtual machines] and containers, system-level solutions like Dell PowerProtect, can provide wider levels of threat protection.”

King also said that Dell has designed PowerProtect to ensure businesses are effectively managing data backups and compliance requirements both on premises and in hybrid clouds, which can help blunt the impact of ransomware or other attacks.

Dell is updating Superna’s Cyber Protection and Recovery solution to PowerScale, which helps organizations protect themselves and recover from ransomware. Dell is pushing that protection to the public cloud by offering Superna’s offering as a solution hosted in the Multi-Cloud Data Services enabled by Falcon.

The vendor also announced Dynamic NAS Protection will work with Dell EMC’s PowerProtect Data Manager to automatically scale to enable protection and recovery for any NAS that supports NFS or CIFS files systems, including PowerStore and Unity as well as PowerScale. It includes fast backups and restores.

King said Dell’s working the storage space is an example of strategic acquisitions that can result in new benefits over the long run.

“When Dell acquired EMC in 2016, some questioned how well the company could or would manage EMC’s market-leading storage assets and portfolio,” he said. “PowerScale demonstrates how Dell is continually adapting to key market and technological changes and delivering innovative new solutions designed to meet customers’ current and emerging needs.”

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Jeff Burt
Jeffrey Burt has been a journalist for more than three decades, the last 20-plus years covering technology. During more than 16 years with eWEEK, he covered everything from data center infrastructure and collaboration technology to AI, cloud, quantum computing and cybersecurity. A freelance journalist since 2017, his articles have appeared on such sites as eWEEK, The Next Platform, ITPro Today, Channel Futures, Channelnomics, SecurityNow, Data Breach Today, InternetNews and eSecurity Planet.

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