The Dell EMC Flex family of products is powered by PowerFlex– a scale-out block storage service that enables customers to create a resilient server SAN or hyper-converged infrastructure on x86 server hardware. The Flex family accommodates a wide variety of deployment options, with multiple OS and hypervisor capabilities, and is ideal for applications requiring high performance and ease of management as one scales from small to large.

Back in June 2020, I blogged about the 3.5 release, which you can read all about here & here. That release, added a new, HTML5 based UI and native replication capabilities.

Today we are excited to announce PowerFlex version 3.6. this release helps you execute AI/ML and VDI workloads flawlessly with expanded GPU options, while offering superior automation for cloud-native applications with an updated CSI Driver and all-new Ansible Modules. This release also enhances security, compliance, and data protection with scalable replication and VMware SRM support, AppSync integrated copy-data management, and FIPS-140-2 compliance. You can operate your data center confidently with innovations including CloudIQ’s AI-based infrastructure insights, network resiliency enhancements, and new guided upgrade paths within PowerFlex Manager. Supercharge your data center with PowerFlex!


With this release, PowerFlex helps you execute workloads and operations flawlessly with expanded GPU options. Superior performance, automation, and integration for cloud-native applications is made possible by an updated CSI Driver and all-new Ansible Modules. Achieve superior outcomes for cloud-native and analytics workloads with PowerFlex!

PowerFlex’s newest release ensures effortless compliance with expanded security and data protection. Newly expanded replication options with SRA for VMware SRM combine to provide business continuity. Achieve compliance and regulatory requirements with ease using FIPS-140-2 and protect your applications with CDM (copy data management). Safeguard your critical assets with PowerFlex!

Operate your data center confidently, with new integrations including CloudIQ’s AI-based infrastructure insights, network resiliency enhancements, and new guided upgrade paths within PowerFlex Manager. Streamline your data center operations with PowerFlex!

Now, let’s review some of the great features we’ve added to this release:

CloudIQ support for PowerFlex

CloudIQ is Cloud-based proactive monitoring and predictive analytics for core, edge and cloud. CloudIQ combines monitoring, machine learning and predictive analytics so you can take quick action and simplify operations of your on-premises infrastructure and data protection in the cloud.

The integration between CloudIQ and PowerFlex includes system level monitoring of Configuration / Inventory, Capacity Usage, and Performance as we as health score based on PowerFlex alerts and anomaly detection and proactive monitoring for performance impacts.

Network Resiliency Improvements

In two-layer systems, where the SDC is external to the PowerFlex cluster, there can be a network path disconnection/failure between an SDC and an SDS that is not a general network failure in the cluster.

In version 3.6, if a path to one SDS fails, the SDC will retry I/Os (after a 10s cool-off period) using another SDS in the Protection Domain as a proxy for the requests.


Proactive Network Disqualification

A port or socket experiencing frequent disconnects (flapping), can cause system performance issues in PowerFlex’s fully distributed architecture.

PowerFlex 3.6 detects this and proactively disqualifies the path, preventing general disruption across the system.


Protected Maintenance Mode – Auto-abort


  • PMM was introduced in version 3.5 to create a very safe alternative for putting a node into maintenance
    • Entering PMM: creates a new, temporary copy of the data by leveraging the many-to-many rebalance algorithm
      • We leave the data on the node being maintained in place
      • This makes for three copies, but only two are available
    • However, the process of entering PMM can be long, and the state of a system can change
    • PMM now checks every minute if the system still has the resources to support entering PMM.*
    • If it does not, the PMM is aborted, and the user is notified.

PowerFlex Replication Enhancements


The PowerFlex journal-based replication architecture allows for very low RPOs. In the initial release, we supported only as short as 30 seconds. In 3.6, we cut that in half to 15 seconds.

In 3.6, we’ve added support for replication in VMware HCI environments, this feature is available vailable only for systems managed by PowerFlex Manager (appliance and rack)

In 3.5.x a user has no way to maintain a configuration of RCG and Pairs without the actual replication happening and resources consumed. Also, in case the system is incapable to continue the replication of an RCG, it can only delete it completely from the system.

The ‘Activate-Deactivate RCG’ feature introduces a new INACTIVE state of RCG, when no replication actually happens, no resources are consumed and I/O to volumes is served directly by SDS. However, the RCG configuration, which includes, name, cycle, all the Pairs – is stored, agreed between the peers. The RCG can be created in INACTIVE state and can be requested by user to move to the normal, ACTIVE, state, and then back again. Also, in case when the system is incapable to continue the replication of the RCG, it will automatically move the RCG to the INACTIVE state.

PowerFlex SRA for VMware SRM


vCenter Site Recovery Manager is a disaster recovery and business continuity solution with the following characteristics:

  • Operates as an extension of vCenter Server
  • Automates the recovery or migration of virtual machines between a protected site and a recovery site
  • Uses array-based replication solutions from other vendors, in our case, it’s PowerFlex

PowerFlex SRA enables the use of PowerFlex native asynchronous replication as the replication engine for protecting VMs on vSphere datastores
PowerFlex SRA for use with Site Recovery Manager 8.2* or 8.3* on the SRM Server appliance
PowerFlex replication must be configured and working
At least one Replication Consistency Group containing volumes that are:

  • Mapped to ESXi hosts
  • Used to create the datastores hosting the VMs that SRM will protect

New Scalability Limits

  • Max SDCs per system = 2048
    • Increase from 1024
  • Max SDR count = 128
    • Increase from 64
  • Max volumes per SDC = 1024
    • Decrease from 8192
  • Maximum replicated volume size = 64TB
    • Increase from 32TB
  • PowerFlex Manager supports 320 drives per Storage Pool
    • Increase from 300*

PowerFlex Container Storage Interface (CSI) Plugin enhancements

PowerFlex CSI v1.5 update (Coming June 28th)


  • Consistency groups support
  • Custom FS format options
  • User can set specific disk format command parameters when provisioning a volume
  • Support matrix updates
    • Kubernetes 1.21
    • RHEL 8.4
    • OpenShift 4.6 and 4.7
    • Rancher RKE II

PowerFlex CSI v1.4 update

  • Multi-array Support
  • Allow mounting RWO volume on multiple PODs
  • Supports CSI Ephemeral Inline Volumes
  • Support Matrix updates
    • PowerFlex 3.6
    • Kubernetes 1.20
    • OpenShift 4.7
    • RHEL 8.3
    • Fedora CoreOS

PowerFlex CSI v1.3 update

  • Containerized SDC deployment
  • Support for Red Hat OpenShift 4.6 and RH CoreOS 4.6
  • Single-Click deployment of CSI on OpenShift Cluster
  • Support for Bare Metal & Virtualized Deployment

Ansible Modules for Dell EMC PowerFlex


The Ansible Modules for Dell EMC PowerFlex allow Data Center and IT administrators to use RedHat Ansible to automate and orchestrate the provisioning and management of Dell EMC PowerFlex storage systems.

The capabilities of the Ansible modules are managing SDCs, volumes, snapshots and storage pools; and to gather high level facts from the storage system. The options available for each are list, show, create, modify and delete. These tasks can be executed by running simple playbooks written in yaml syntax. The modules are written so that all the operations are idempotent, so making multiple identical requests has the same effect as making a single request.

Ansible Modules for PowerFlex release 1.0 supports the following features:

  • The following are the features of the gatherfacts module:
    • Get the API details of a PowerFlex storage device.
    • Get the list of SDCs.
    • Get the list of SDSs.
    • Get the list of volumes.
    • Get the list of snapshots.
    • Get the list of storage pools.
    • Get list of protection domains.
    • Get list of snapshot policies.
  • The following are the features of the volume module:
    • Get the details of a volume.
    • Create a volume.
    • Modify details of a volume.
    • Delete a volume.
  • The following are the features of the snapshot module:
    • Get the details of a snapshot.
    • Create a snapshot.
    • Modify details of a snapshot.
    • Delete a snapshot.
  • The following are the features of the storage pools module:
    • Get the details of a storage pool.
    • Create a storage pool.
    • Modify details of a storage pool.
  • The following are the features of the SDCs module:
    • Get the details of the SDC.
    • Rename an SDC.

Hardware updates

New acceleration card offerings:

  • Next-gen NVIDIA acceleration cards now available for customers requiring specialized, high-performance computing and analytics applications – Quadro RTX 6000, Quadro RTX 8000, A40, and A100
  • The first small form factor acceleration card supported by R640 – NVIDIA T4
  • Replacement to V100 now available – NVIDIA A100

Other new offerings of note:

  • Replacement to ConnectX-5 100Gb now available – Mellanox ConnectX-6 100Gb
  • Factory installed fiber channel HBA cards* – Emulex LPE 31002
RTX 8000 A100
48GB GDDR6 GPU memory 40GB HBM2
16.3 TFLOPS FP32 performance 156 TFLOPS
295 W Max TDP power 250 W
PCIe 3.0 x 16 Graphics bus PCIe 4.0 x 16

 

NSX-T Ready for PowerFlex appliance

NSX-T is VMware’s software-defined-network infrastructure that addresses cross-cloud needs for VM-centric network services and security

An “NSX-T Ready” PowerFlex rack or appliance includes all necessary hardware components needed to deploy and configure NSX-T software. The required hardware components are installed in the factory. Software deployment and lifecycle management are user responsibility

Customer provides NSX-T software and deploy with assistance from VMware or Dell Professional Service

New enabling hardware components

  • 4-node PowerFlex management cluster available to host NSX-T controller VMs
  • 2 to 8 NSX-T edge nodes for NSX-T edge services
  • High level NSX-T topologies and consideration in Appliance Network Planning Guide
  • PowerFlex Manager Lifecyle mode

Dell EMC AppSync for PowerFlex

AppSync is a software that enables Integrated Copy Data Management (iCDM) with Dell EMC’s primary storage systems.

The solution provides:

  • Automated copy creation and consumption – no more manual steps or custom scripts
  • Tight integration with host environments, applications and Dell EMC PowerFlex storage and replication
  • Applications owners and storage admins are on the same page with a transparent copy workflow

AppSync simplifies and automates the process of generating and consuming copies of production data. By abstracting the underlying storage and replication technologies, and through deep application integration, AppSync empowers application owners to satisfy copy demand for operational recovery and data repurposing on their own. In turn, storage administrators need only be concerned with initial setup and policy management, resulting in an agile, frictionless environment.

AppSync automatically discovers application databases, learns the database structure, and maps it through the Virtualization Layer to the underlying storage LUN. It then orchestrates all the activities required from copy creation and validation through mounting at the target host and launching or recovering the application. Supported workflows also include refresh, expire, and restore production.

AppSync simplifies and automates the process of generating and consuming copies of production data. AppSync enables application owners to satisfy copy demand for data repurposing, operational recovery and disaster recovery across multiple Dell EMC arrays and applications with a single user interface.

With PowerFlex 3.6, AppSync supports Bronze Service Plans and local repurposing as well as Silver Service Plans and remote repurposing which utilizes Asynchronous replication

Other 3.6 Improvements


  • Inclusive Language changes in UI
    • New MDM cluster component naming
    • Replace Master/Slave with Primary/Secondary
  • Improved/simplified layout in WebUI
    • Consolidated menus
    • Dedicated section for Snapshots and Snapshot Policies
  • Support for Oracle Linux KVM
    • In addition to pre-existing support for OEL
    • Enables Oracle database sales plays, where users need to run Oracle software at all layers
  • MG layout write improvements

  • Improved first writes to new data layout chunks for volumes and snapshots
  • Hardware Details in UI

You can download PowerFlex 3.6, from the link below

The documentation for the release, can be found at the following link: https://www.dell.com/support/home/en-il/product-support/product/scaleio/docs#sort=relevancy&f:versionFacet=%5B50723%5D&f:lang=%5Ben%5D

A guest post by Tomer Nahumi

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