What is our primary use case?
We use the PowerStore for our development environment. The frame is a repository for all our VMware infrastructure data stores and the applications that live on those data stores are mainly real-time voice applications in call centers.
We use it with Cisco switches and it's pure block only.
How has it helped my organization?
Thanks to the duplication and data savings, we have a lot of capacity available to us in the PowerStore. That lets us use and consume logical capacity, which can be done very quickly compared to having to install physical resources inside the PowerStore. The data reduction process is very efficient resulting in very high data reduction if you compare the PowerStore to legacy frames from Dell EMC. This is a very good benefit for us. We were able to very quickly connect new servers and instantly have capacity on the frame because of the data reduction. Moving forward, we can add more disks inside. We plan to have seven drives added in the coming weeks. So we are able to independently add servers, even if we don't have the actual physical capacity on the frame itself.
We have also seen a lot of savings because of the data reduction efficiency, which is currently 4:1 or 5:1.
We will also decommission old frames, and the maintenance contracts on those frames are very expensive. We will save some money as a result and we will also realize some power savings. We also have some environmental-related "green" engagements in Orange, and PowerStore is helping us go in that direction.
There are also space savings because the old frames are using a full rack while the PowerStore is only a 2U unit with almost the same amount of data being stored on it. That is very good.
So it will save us floor space, energy, and money on maintenance contracts.
Our development team is very happy with us, from an admin perspective. When they query us for more capacity, we are very quick to respond and provide them with resources. If they want to deploy new machines, for example, we can quickly assign new data stores that those VMs will rely on. We have saved a lot of time thanks to the PowerStore.
And because the performance of the PowerStore is very high, we can connect many servers on the same frame, instead of having to multiply frames, side-by-side, to get enough power to serve our IOPS. We are working on real-time applications, so we can't afford a response time of more than 10 milliseconds or 15 milliseconds as a maximum. We can't support a greater lag in a call center. The PowerStore now is less than a millisecond, and that is with more load on it. On one VNX we have two or three VMware clusters with four or five ESXis per cluster. On the PowerStore I have, say, 10 clusters and each has about eight ESXis.
What is most valuable?
The most valuable feature is that it is easy to use this frame. I am a SAN administrator, but I was able to train my colleague, who had only been a VMware administrator, on the PowerStore in about half a day. Now he's autonomous in assigning volumes and creating data stores, et cetera. I don't have to help him anymore. That is the beauty of this unit and it's due to the effort Dell EMC put into the GUI.
The VMware integration is very good. It integrates all the vSphere interactions when you create your data store, directly from the PowerStore GUI, into your VMware cluster. My colleague who was the VMware administrator is now able, in one shot, to provision his storage and automatically create a data store relying on this storage. That has freed up some of his time.
Another important feature is the power of this frame. It's very powerful. We have almost less than a millisecond of response time, all the time, even during backup windows. That's very good compared with the VNX, of which we have two. We also have a Unity connected on this same SAN for the same kind of application. We did a comparison among the three models of frames, the VNX, which is rather old, the Unity full flash, which is not so old, and the PowerStore. PowerStore is really on top of all of them.
Of course, it enables us to add compute and capacity independently. We add a lot of VMware clusters in our SAN thanks to the PowerStore. We are going to decommission the old VNXs because it's better adding capacity on the PowerStore than keeping the old models.
What needs improvement?
The NAS capabilities have room for improvement. Currently, when you buy the PowerStore T model, you have a choice of using only block—it's block-optimized—or you can buy it as a unified frame. With the latter, you can access the frame using either block—Fibre Channel or iSCSI, and on the other side you can access it using IP protocols, like NFS or CIFS. This is the NAS part and, currently, the NAS part is very poor. It's very basic. Even Dell EMC has said that to us. We are waiting for version 3 of PowerStore for that. This must be improved and it is in the roadmap.
We have other NAS solutions, but if someone wanted to have a unified frame, this is not the right solution, currently. That's why it's not a 10 out of 10. When we will have version 3 of PowerStore's operating system, in less six than months, my rating will probably go up.
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For how long have I used the solution?
The PowerStore was introduced in June of last year and I adopted the first one in Europe, in August last year, so we have had it for about seven months.
What do I think about the stability of the solution?
It is very stable.
The issue we had with PowerStore was due to being a very early adopter. We got a better version of the PowerStore operating system, but the upgrade that came after that, relying on the better version, was not easy to run. We decided to reinstall the PowerStore with a fresh, new, official operating system.
So the stability of the initial PowerStore was good enough for production, but not as good as we would have expected for this kind of frame. The four PowerStores we have that were installed with an official release are very stable.
We faced issues, but that was normal because the PowerStore was totally new at that time. No one had experience with it. When Dell EMC came onsite to install our first one, it was the very first in Europe.
What do I think about the scalability of the solution?
There are two ways to scale. You can scale up and out. You can easily add shelves to add more physical capacity to your appliance. If that's not enough, you can add an appliance to your federation. It's very easy.
We are on the T model, not the X model. It's pure block and we are external ESXi-connected. We need a lot of servers because we have more than 100 developers working on this frame. They all need their own clusters because there are different applications under development. An X model would not have been enough.
In the future, if the PowerStore 5k is not powerful enough, we could upgrade it to a 7K or a 9k or the new 7200 models that are coming out in a few months. But the magic is that we could do that with the data in place, inside the frame, keeping the drive. That is one of the highlights when it comes to simplifying things.
How are customer service and support?
As a very big company and as a partner, we have a particular kind of access to support. We have a dedicated global account manager. All we have to do is snap our fingers and we have the guy on the phone. The quality of support is okay. I can also access the product manager of the product. I am Dell EMC-certified, so it's very easy for me to access support documentation.
Sometimes, their support doesn't really understand the customer's position. For example, some weeks ago we had an issue on a frame. Dell EMC engineering focused on what was really happening instead of trying to bypass the problem. They didn't succeed in recreating the issue we had in their lab, so they were using our infrastructure as their lab. It was a development environment so it was not harmful for production. But in the end, it was a time-consuming issue for us.
How would you rate customer service and support?
How was the initial setup?
You don't have to worry about the deployment. It's already done for you when the frame is powered up. That is another aspect of how it simplifies your implementation. Dell EMC comes onsite to do the initial power-up of the frame itself. After that, we do everything by ourselves.
Aside from that—and this is important—because we were early adopters, there were some features that were mandatory at the time, and they complicated the initial deployment a little. The top-of-rack switches that are mandatory when you use a federation are no longer needed if you use a single appliance. That was our case. At the time we deployed our first PowerStore, we had a single appliance, but we needed the top-of-rack switches to be set up for a potential future connection with other appliances, if we wanted to go to a federation.
Now, with version 2 of PowerStore, you don't need to deploy top-of-rack switches if you have a single appliance. That can be done later on, if you go to the federated setup. This is a very good improvement because many customers have a single appliance. It's so powerful that you probably don't initially need a federation. Now, you don't need top-of-rack switches set up but used for nothing.
Because ours was one of the first PowerStores, Dell EMC took a day to deploy it. Afterward, for the other PowerStores we have deployed in the data center, it took less than half a day. With the last one we will deploy, which should happen next week, we will not have top-of-rack switches. There will be no connectivity to set up and no Fibre to run, so it should take two hours.
We had to migrate data out of the legacy frame we previously had to go to the PowerStore, but it was very easy because all was done on our side on our servers, so it was very quick.
What was our ROI?
We have definitely seen ROI due to our data savings as a result of the data reduction. Instead of buying one-to-one drives, we buy half a drive.
What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?
Licensing is very simple. Everything is included in the basic license. There are no concerns about having to pay to add a feature. Everything is there.
Because we are a big partner, we get good prices from Dell EMC. They know we will resell their technology, so I'm not in a good position to discuss the pricing that applies to non-partners.
Which other solutions did I evaluate?
We have almost the entire portfolio of Dell EMC products, from VNXs to PowerMax. We also have some other vendors, of course, but they are not as powerful as this one.
What other advice do I have?
My advice would be don't hesitate. It's a good frame. It's doing what it is designed for. It serves IOPS very well. The data savings are very important and the response time is very short. There are always tricky situations that come up, but honestly, since our PowerStore went live, I don't have to worry about the storage for this environment. The VMware guys are independent. They don't need me anymore.
We accepted the risk, due to the fact that it was a relatively new platform, when we went with PowerStore. We were totally aware of that fact. That is why we put the first one into our development area, and not production. Even if we have more than 100 developers working on it, any problems would affect developers, not production. We understood there could be costs because having 100 developers not doing anything during a day costs money. But PowerStore didn't disappoint us. We are very happy with it. We now have four in production.
We are a Dell partner, so we also resell PowerStore to our end-users. When we initially built this frame, we wanted, say, 100 terabytes, but they persuaded us to only buy 40 terabytes of SSD or NVMe drives because of the savings that they said we would see from the data reduction efficiency. The program they gave us was that if we didn't achieve that kind of data efficiency, they would provide us some disks for free.
Which deployment model are you using for this solution?
Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: Partner