EMC Storage: What Is VPlex, VMax and VNX Storage?

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EMC storage has never been simple. In the old days, grand and distinct, albeit somewhat obscure, titles such as Symmetrix, Centera and CLARiiON ruled the day.

These days, possibly due to the growing influence of VMware and the massive adoption of virtualization within the EMC empire, it’s all VPlex, VMax and VNX. For those just wanting to buy some storage, a trip to the EMC products page doesn’t help. The company provides such a huge number of diverse products that it’s hard to figure out which is which and which does what. The product drop-down menu isn’t much help, merely narrowing it down by product family from which you are fed a page with several dozen items.

So let’s make sense of the main storage areas, and at least try to explain the difference between all of the V-Whatevers. While there are many more products now within the EMC portfolio, those are the ones closest to the company’s roots as a provider of good-old storage boxes.


Although the product is now officially VMax, EMC still sometimes says EMC Symmetrix VMax on its website. But at EMC World this year, the word Symmetrix was hardly used at all.

Symmetrix, after all, has long been the EMC flagship line of heavy duty block-based storage arrays. During the past couple of years though, it has gradually morphed into VMax, as more virtual and cloud features have been added. Could the Symmetrix moniker finally go away? Only time will tell.

Meanwhile, EMC now offers three main models of VMax — the 10k, 20k and the brand new 40k, which have a maximum of 1080, 2400 or 3200 drives, respectively (up to 1.5 PB, 2 PB or 4 PB).

The VMax 40K now has the option of 2.5″ SAS drives and flash drives. It comes with 32 x 2.8 GHz Intel Xeon 6-core processors, up to 2 TB of mirrored RAM, and up to 4 PB of usable capacity.

“The VMax 40k provides scale-out block performance,” said Pat Gelsinger, president and COO of EMC Information Infrastructure Products. “It represents a doubling of power and capacity for VMax compared to the previous generation.”


VNX is EMC’s unified platform for both file and block storage. It represents the coming together of the CLARiiON and Celerra lines. There are three different varieties. VNXe is for SMEs, although it sits more at the high-end of the SME marketplace. VNX is for midrange unified storage with high performance, and the VNX gateway adds NAS capabilities to existing EMC block storage.

Most recently, EMC introduced the VNXe 3150 storage system, which racked up the performance and capacity by 50 percent per RU. EMC has also lowered the cost of flash and improved snapshot options.

“EMC’s enhancements to its VNX unified storage family hit on many pain points experienced by IT generalists,” said Mark Peters, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group. “EMC’s transformation of its midrange storage offerings delivers simplicity, cost-effectiveness, efficiency and automation.”


While VPlex sounds like it must logically be yet another EMC storage box with yet more bells and whistles, it is actually something completely different. VPlex is all about information mobility and federation of data between data centers. It works with both EMC and non-EMC storage. That said, a box is involved — in this case, a VPlex appliance that sits at each of the locations involved in moving, replicating or pooling data.

VPlex comes in three basic flavors: VPlex Local, Metro and Geo, depending on how large an area you wish to encompass. EMC has gradually been extending the reach and capabilities of VPlex over the past year or two. The latest updates are said to provide 40 percent more performance and 2X the scalability. It also comes with tighter integration with VMware vSphere and EMC RecoverPoint data protection as part of EMC’s Hybrid Cloud strategy.

“We’re extending EMC’s disaster recovery and data protection solutions to active/active data centers to maximize data availability and protection,” said Brian Gallagher, president of Enterprise Storage Division, EMC. “VPlex is enabling customers to think differently about how they share their data — eliminating former data center boundaries.”

Drew Robb is a freelance writer specializing in technology and engineering. Currently living in California, he is originally from Scotland, where he received a degree in geology and geography from the University of Strathclyde. He is the author of Server Disk Management in a Windows Environment (CRC Press).


Further Reading
Software Defined Storage: Virtualize Your Storage Infrastructure
Drew Robb
Drew Robb
Drew Robb is a contributing writer for Datamation, Enterprise Storage Forum, eSecurity Planet, Channel Insider, and eWeek. He has been reporting on all areas of IT for more than 25 years. He has a degree from the University of Strathclyde UK (USUK), and lives in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.

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