In the first posts of the series

https://volumes.blog/2020/05/05/what-is-powerstore-part-1-overview/ & https://volumes.blog/2020/05/05/whats-is-powerstore-part-2-hardware/ we gave an high level overview of PowerStore.

PowerStore utilizes a container-based software architecture, that provides unique capabilities for delivering and integrating advanced system services. The modularity of containers enables feature portability, standardization and rapid time-to-market for new capabilities and enables maximum deployment flexibility.

The flexibility of the architecture allows customers to use PowerStore in one of two deployment models: As a traditional external storage array that attaches to servers to provide storage (Known as the PowerStore T model), or as hypervisor-enabled appliance where the PowerStoreOS runs as a Virtual Machine (Known as the PowerStore X model). In the latter, the ESXi hypervisor, that many companies have standardized their IT infrastructure on, gets loaded onto each of the two active-active nodes, with PowerStoreOS running as virtual machine on each node.

This allows customers to run applications directly on the same appliance as storage without the need for external servers, a feature known as AppsOn. No matter which model PowerStore a customer chooses, the exact same exact capabilities, data services, and fully redundant all NVMe container based architecture runs on the same exact 2U hardware and is fully interoperable (for example, you can replicate between a PowerStore T model and an X model and vice-versa). Not only does the onboard hypervisor provide additional isolation and abstraction of the operating system, but it enables future deployment models where the storage software can be deployed independently from the purpose-built hardware.

The ideal use cases for this are storage intensive workloads (opposite of compute intensive workloads), where the workload demands are measured in terms of large number of IOPS and capacity, such as a database. Another is infrastructure consolidation use cases, where IT infrastructure is required in locations that don’t haven’t data centers and are very space constrained – PowerStore with AppsOn provides the ability to run applications in an active-active HA manner with enterprise data services and over 1PB effective capacity all in a 2U single appliance form factor. In addition, the PowerStore X allows not only to run Virtual Machines locally through AppsOn, but it also can simultaneously act as a SAN in providing storage to external servers via FC/iSCSI as well! Talk about true flexibility!

Before we go further, lets get familiar with the basics:

  • For PowerStore X, ESXi is installed directly on the purpose-built hardware that we just reviewed. As a quick refresher, it is a 2U 2 node, All NVMe Base enclosure solution with a dual socket Intel Xeon architecture.
  • The PowerStoreOS runs inside of a Virtual machine on that ESXi, this virtual machine is referred to as the Controller VM.
  • The PowerStore X is capable of supporting traditional storage resources such as SAN and vVols, while also embedding applications directly onto the array in the form of VMware Virtual Machines. Regardless of if the X or T model, PowerStore is designed with an Active – Active architecture, both nodes have access to all of the drives and access to all storage resources. With that said, PowerStore will present resources in an ALUA (active optimized / active non-optimized) manner to front end hosts.
  • PowerStoreOS is based on a Linux operating system. PowerStoreOS runs the software stack for PowerStore, which includes management functionality and endpoints, hosts the web browser (no external application needed for management), handles all of the storage functionality, and the serviceability components such as staging and executing upgrades and remote support via embedded SupportAssist.
  • The PowerStoreOS is implemented through multiple different docker containers. Docker is a defined environment for running containerized solutions that many are familiar with. Containerizing PowerStoreOS allows for easier serviceability as new containers can be quickly staged and brought online, and if a container needs to be rebooted or modified the entire stack does not need to come down. It also provides greater potential for integration across the Dell portfolio, as new features can be easily deployed into the docker environment for PowerStore to leverage.
  • In the PowerStore T model, 100% of the system CPU and memory are used by the PowerStoreOS. For the X model, 50% of CPU and memory are reserved for the PowerStoreOS, ensuring there is always guaranteed resources for serving storage, while the remaining 50% is available for user space to run Virtual Machines.

The screenshot above is used to help visualize the capabilities of PowerStore X. On the left, you have a more traditional setup. A physical server running ESXi, and then either an FC or iSCSI connection to a separate storage array (in this example it is a Unity system. You then have applications (VMs) with their compute on the server and the backend disks on the storage system. PowerStore X contains both the compute and storage components internally. The two native ESXi hosts (1 per node) form an ESXi Cluster for the Computer layer. The Controller VM runs PowerStoreOS which handles the storage across the backend disks for any embedded applications (VMs) or traditional storage served to an external host.

Now to showcase these capabilities. Just like a traditional storage array, and external server can create either an FC or iSCSI connection to the PowerStore X. PowerStore X can then expose storage to the host in the form of a VVol datastore, or as individual Volumes (LUNs). In this scenario, you have an application running on an external server using PowerStore X storage, exactly the same as any other storage system.

However, PowerStore X is also capable of running the customer apps (VMs) on itself (hence, the ‘AppsON”). In this scenario, you deploy the entire application directly onto PowerStore X. The compute portion will run on the ESXi host, and the storage will be on the backend, handled by the PowerStoreOS running inside the Controller VM.

Finally, because PowerStoreX uses ESXi, it automatically inherits the services that are offered through vSphere, such as vMotion. You can see the full potential of PowerStore X by seamlessly migrating your existing applications using a compute and storage vMotion entirely onto PowerStore X, and continue moving workloads in and out based on workload and business needs.

PowerStore X is not limited to it’s internal nodes that are running ESXi, should you need more compute, it can also provision volumes to external hosts. We offer both FC & iSCSI protocols to these hosts.

One of the key benefits of PowerStore X (and ‘T’), is the ability to create more than one storage container which allow you to have a multi-tenancy for vVols based environments, above, you can see a screenshot showing the different storage containers.

When you open up vCenter, this is how a typical configuration environment will look like, you have your VMware DataCenter, the PowerStore Cluster (Cluster-WX-H6121), your PowerStore ESXi nodes (10.245.17.120 / 121), each PowerStore ESXI host will have it’s controller VM (PSTX**) and then, you will have the actual customer VMS and their datastores they reside on. In the above we see a single appliance PowerStore X system, its two nodes exposed as vSphere hosts with the PowerStore Controller VM running on each node, and two user VMs running on these internal nodes. In addition, this PowerStore X system is also serving storage to two VMs running on external ESX servers via iSCSI, as a regular SAN array would.

PowerStore X Use Cases

There are many use cases, PowerStore X can accommodate and frankly, apart from the obvious ones, we can’t wait for you, our customers and partners to show us, what are YOU using it for.

Let’s look at some deployment scenarios where PowerStore can be utilized to modernize infrastructure, starting at the Edge.

Enterprises in a variety of industries are proactively deploying a wide range of IoT use cases to enable digital transformation initiatives. They are often challenged with analyzing large volumes of real-time IoT data and information in a secure, cost-effective manner using centralized analytic solutions. IoT devices often create a deluge of structured and unstructured data, including video images and audio content at the device level, which must be evaluated at the source of the data in real-time. Companies can aggregate and filter device data to remove insignificant data points, or identify the most valuable data to transport to the cloud. Gateways can collect data from edge devices and use applications or algorithms to determine if more complex analyses are needed, or to help companies comply with regulatory requirements that dictate local storage.

Organizations with requirements for edge-based IoT data analytics seek infrastructure solutions that are simple to manage, scalable, secure, and meet their network and data retention requirements. PowerStore offers unique capabilities for environments where infrastructure simplicity and density are desirable or critical, including edge computing, ROBO, mobile and tactical deployments. It’s small 2U footprint, ease of deployment, flexible architecture, ability to support multiple data types, centralized management, and advanced replication to core data centers make it an ideal solution for the Edge. Branch office and retail store locations where space and resources are at a premium will be able to take advantage of the smaller footprint resulting from PowerStore’s collapsed hardware stack where separate server and networking are eliminated. These same benefits are also applicable to mobile applications including tactical, shipboard and airborne deployments.

Powerstore can also be deployed in the core data center.

With AppsOn, PowerStore provides unparalleled flexibility and mobility for application deployment. PowerStore cluster management, combined with VMware tools including vMotion and storage vMotion, enable seamless application mobility between PowerStore and other VMware targets. Using a single storage instance, applications can be deployed on networked servers, hyperconverged infrastructure, or directly on the PowerStore appliance and migrated transparently between them. This unparalleled agility enables IT and application owners to quickly and seamlessly deploy and reassign workloads to the most effective environment based on current requirements and available resources.

AppsON further benefits IT organizations by providing additional flexibility while continuing to utilize existing infrastructure investments. It complements existing platforms, including HCI, by provide a landing zone for high capacity, high performance, storage-intensive workloads that require superior data efficiency, and always-on data reduction.

Finally, PowerStore can still be utilized as a more traditional storage appliance, providing capacity to existing networked servers.

In addition to deploying infrastructure at the Edge and Core, many organizations are utilizing public cloud for hybrid cloud solutions. PowerStore customers can easily integrate their on-premises infrastructure into these environments while maintaining operational consistency.

For VMware customers, VMware Cloud on AWS delivers a seamless hybrid cloud by extending their on-premises vSphere environment to the AWS Cloud, enabling users to modernize, protect and scale vSphere-based applications with AWS resources. With PowerStore’s AppsON capability through vSphere, users can easily migrate applications and data between PowerStore and AWS based on requirements, without requiring additional management tools for simple and consistent operations.

In addition to application mobility, PowerStore provides Cloud Data Services through Faction, a managed service provider that offers scalable, resilient cloud-attached storage with flexible multi-cloud access. A variety of public cloud options that are all continuously innovating and developing new services and capabilities creates complexity in determining which cloud is right for an organization. Cloud Storage Services offers agile, multi-cloud support allowing you to leverage multiple clouds and easily and quickly switch clouds based on applications’ needs to maximize business outcomes.

Organizations can avoid vendor lock-in by keeping data independent of the cloud, so you do not have to worry about high egress charges, migration risk, or time required to move data. Extending the data center to the cloud using enterprise-class storage empowers users to innovate in the cloud and easily scale cloud environments to hundreds of thousands of IOPS to support high-performance workloads, while reducing risk and maintaining complete control of data.

In VCF environments, PowerStore can provide external capacity (supplemental storage) for VCF workload domains and provide complementary data services for data-intensive applications. This is a perfect example of how PowerStore can be deployed along with HCI to address a wide range of applications and data requirements.

There are two configurations supported today.

Supported Config #1

Management Domain + VxRail + PowerStore (Supplemental storage)

Supported Config #2

Management Domain + vSAN Ready Nodes + PowerStore (Principal & Supplemental)

PowerStore X is deeply integrated into VMware vCenter as we know many of our customers have standardized their virtualized infrastructure on vSphere. This means creating and managing Virtual Machines on PowerStore X is exactly the same as if it were an external ESXi server managed in vCenter. However, it was important for us to make the PowerStore manager VMware aware so that the PowerStore UI could display VMware objects consuming PowerStore resources. Not only does it offer an extremely simple turn-key vVol setup, but it also provides a lot of information about these VMs using vVols, such as VM performance metrics, all integrated into the PowerStore management UI.

below, you can see some high level video explanation about AppsON

and you can see a demo how it all looks

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