EMC VNXe 3100: Sweet entry-level NAS and SAN
EMC delivers an all-purpose, unified storage array tailor-made for the IT generalist and the small-business budget
EMC is easily the largest enterprise storage player on the planet, with more worldwide storage revenue than its two closest competitors (IBM and NetApp) combined. But no matter how popular EMC's high-end Symmetrix and VNX product lines have been with large customers, EMC was rarely considered a great choice for the small-to-midsize-business sector.
All that changed with the release of the VNXe series early last year. Though the VNXe is based on many of the same concepts as the larger VNX, it's more than a pared-down knockoff of the must-have features found in its big brother. Instead, the VNXe is a multiprotocol, virtualized implementation of the file and block-level storage engines of the VNX. Through virtualization, EMC found an innovative way to deliver enterprise-class functionality and performance in an small-business-sized package and at a small-business price.
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The VNXe in the lab
In testing the VNXe line, my goal was to replicate the experience of an IT generalist after buying a new array for use in a virtualization environment. Though the VNXe has been popular in a range of different roles (such as a replicated branch office storage solution or even as storage for embedded industrial hardware), the sweet spot for the VNXe is most certainly the small to midsize business. For many of the small businesses that may consider buying a VNXe, this will be their first experience with shared, centralized storage of any kind. Thus, the ease and simplicity of installing and growing the system is paramount.
The configuration I was provided included a dual-controller VNXe 3100 equipped with six 300GB 15,000-rpm SAS disks. I was also provided with a separately boxed set of six 1TB 7,200-rpm NL-SAS drives to serve as a growth platform. As many small to midsize business buying their first shared storage have a parallel interest in leveraging the clustering functionality found in many virtualization hypervisors, the bulk of my testing was performed on a trio of HP ProLiant DL385 G7 servers loaded with embedded VMware vSphere 5.0.
Read on for the full details, and see the short sidebar, "EMC VNXe 3100 performance check," for the results of my simple performance tests. As the resulting scorecard shows, I found the EMC VNXe 3100 to be a solid entry-level array -- one that I would recommend to anyone charged with single-handedly running a small shop on a limited budget. The VNXe offers a wide range of performance and availability features that are clearly derived from EMC's long experience delivering storage to large enterprise, and the Unisphere for VNXe management interface is incredibly easy to use. Any IT generalist will find Unisphere simple to navigate and get what they need, though (as always) that very simplicity may be a source of frustration for admins with more storage experience.