EMC’s VNXe Server Architecture – A Primer - Technology Portal

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3/17/2015

EMC’s VNXe Server Architecture – A Primer

Image Copyright EMC CorporationAs I’m sure you all well know by now, EMC is a pretty big name in the hosting space, responsible for producing some of the most acclaimed and often-used products in the industry.
Among their most popular pieces of hardware is the VNX Series – specifically, the recently-developed VNXe3200.
Let’s talk a bit about that, shall we?
Today’s piece is going to be strictly informational.
We’re going to tell you a bit more about the VNXe Series. By the end, you’ll understand how it works, who should use it, how to install it, and how you can take on some of the most common issues you’ll come across.

A Bit Of Background Information On EMC

First founded back in 1979, EMC Corporation has been working with computer hardware for several decades. In that time, it’s established itself as a global leader in hosting and Information Technology, providing businesses all over the world with infrastructure solutions. It employs approximately 60,000 people worldwide, with partners in 86 countries.
You can read more about them here.

What Exactly Is The VNXe Series?

EMC’s VNXe series is a unified hybrid storage platform, designed to be used for network-attached storage or storage area networks. According to IT expert Justin Paul, it also represents a huge step forward for EMC, with even bigger things to come in the future. In particular, Paul points to the recently-released VNXe3200 as indicative of what the company might have planned in terms of storage arrays.
Paul points to three factors that make the VNXe3200 unique:
  1. The VNXe3200 runs the MCx code in user space above a Linux kernel – simplifying the architecture considerably. All previous VNX/CLARiiON/VNXe systems have shipped with a copy of Microsoft Windows.
  2. The VNXe3200 is also the first storage unit that both allows for native block protocols and features a file system that doesn’t require physical data movers/control stations. In other words, it’s the first truly unified storage array.
  3. Because it runs MCx, the VNXe3200 will be far simpler to develop for – meaning EMC might be moving towards a common code-base usable across all array platforms.
The VNXe series is, in other words, kind of a big deal – especially the newer models.

Why Use VNXe?

Now that we’ve gone over what the VNXe platform actually is, let’s spend a bit of time talking about who might actually make use of it. See, this isn’t the sort of product your average hosting client would use. It’s more designed with hosting and service providers in mind, along with those who want to host their own resources on site.
Taking that into account, VNXe is the right choice for your business if…
  • You work in the storage industry, and require a system designed for scalability.
  • You’re a small to mid-sized business without the advantage of a massive IT budget.
  • You need to consolidate and unify your SAN/NAS infrastructure.
You can read a bit more about EMC’s entry-level storage/data protection solutions here.

How To Install The VNXe3200

Information in this section is courtesy of Austin Vail.
Believe it or not, the installation process for the VNXe series is actually quite simple – that’s one of the selling points of the storage array. For that reason, this section’s actually going to be fairly brief. Do note that this section assumes you’re working with a VNXe3200.
Anyway, here’s the process you need to follow:
  1. First thing’s first, connect a switch to the two network ports on the VNXe. Hook the same switch up to to the laptop or desktop you plan to use for configuration.
  2. Download the EMC Connection Utility from EMC’s website.
  3. Open the utility, and select “Auto Discovery.” This may take some time, or a few attempts.
  4. Assign an IP and name to your system. You can either choose a static IP or set an automatic IP.
  5. Wait for configuration to complete, then start Unisphere. Login using the default username and password you should have received with the array.
  6. Run the Unisphere configuration wizard.
That’s pretty much all you need to do – your VNXe3200 should be fully-functional at this point.

Frequently-Asked Questions

We’ll finish with a few frequently asked questions and problems related to the VNXe series.

How Do I Add New Shelves To My VNXe SAN?

Justin Paul has published a fairly complete guide to shelf installation here. Though it primarily applies to the VNXe3100 series, the process hasn’t changed a great deal with the 3200.

Does The VNXe3200 Allow Replication?

Yes – with a few caveats. As of the time of writing, according to John Lukavsky the only replication option available – aside from a host-based proprietary solution – is Replicator V2. RecoverPoint can also be used, but it replicates your entire VNX file, and as such is not a recommended choice.

What’s The Difference Between VNXe3200 And Older Models?

Aside from what we mentioned earlier, the main thing that distinguishes the VNXe3200 from its predecessors is software-related. Although the version of Unisphere installed on the 3200 looks identical to previous editions, closer inspection reveals a whole host of subtle changes to how it operates and manages itself. We could write an entire piece on these changes and how to deal with them – so instead, we’ll just link you to a white paper EMC’s published on the matter.

What Are The VNXe3200’s Weaknesses/Drawbacks?

Although a powerful mid-range storage option, the VNXe3200 isn’t without its weaknesses:
  • Doesn’t give you as much granular control over caching configuration and storage pools as some other arrays. (Source)
  • As already mentioned, limited replication options.
  • Some management options can be clunky – setting the timezone requires a restart, for example.
  • LED on the unit’s front requires separate power cabling.

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