Blockheads note: Dell refreshes PowerFlex and intros APEX Block Storage for Azure

Dell has updated its PowerFlex block storage offering and introduced APEX Block Storage for Azure, so providing three APEX block storage environments: on-premises, in AWS, and now in Microsoft’s cloud. 

Dell says PowerFlex, the code base for APEX Block Storage, has broad support for hyperscaler and container orchestration platforms for block and file, across bare metal and hypervisors. It’s predominantly a block-based storage system but, with PowerFlex file services, its capability to address file use cases has been expanded.

Shannon Champion.

Dell product marketeer Shannon Champion blogs: “The meteoric rise of data, propelled by advancements in artificial intelligence and the spread of connected devices, offers both unprecedented growth potential and significant challenges. While AI-driven insights herald new avenues for business differentiation, the infrastructure underpinning this growth often feels the strain.”

She wants us to understand that the infrastructure burden can be lightened by using APEX block storage technology.

PowerFlex version 4.5

The v4.5 PowerFlex release includes a single global namespace for enhanced capacity and unified storage pool management, plus file scalability improvements like 400 percent increase in NAS Servers and 22x more file snapshots.

It has already received an AWS Outposts Ready designation. We’re told the combination of AWS Outposts and Dell PowerFlex can deliver 12 times more IOPS compared to a native Outposts deployment and the performance can linearly scale with additional compute. It’s able to scale up to 512 storage instances (or nodes) in a single PowerFlex deployment, providing tens of millions of IOPS. These systems can support over 2000 compute instances (nodes) that consume volumes up to a petabyte in usable capacity.

There is more CloudIQ integration with CloudIQ suite capabilities enhancing system visibility, monitoring and real-time license management and covering both PowerFlex and APEX Block Storage for Public Cloud.

Read a PowerFlex solution brief for more information.

Dell APEX Block Storage for Azure

This follows Dell’s introduction of APEX Block Storage for AWS earlier this year and provides block storage for applications running Azure. It can be deployed on managed disks for most workloads or on instances with native attached NVMe SSDs for performance-optimized workloads. In the latter case it delivers, Dell says, extreme performance, low latency, unmatched scalability, flexible deployment options, and enterprise-grade resiliency as well as automated deployment.

The scalability extends to independently scaling compute up to 2048 instances or storage up to 512 instances within a single cluster. This, Dell claims, surpasses the limits of native cloud-based storage volumes. It claims the resiliency includes a unique ability to spread data across multiple availability zones, ensuring data access without requiring extra copies of data or replication across zones.

There are thin provisioning, volume migration, asynchronous replication, snapshots and backup/restore data services, with backup copies available for disaster recovery. From the security angle it has role-based access control, single sign on, encryption and federated identity

Suggested workloads that could use his block storage include mission-critical ones like databases, and analytics, dev/test, virtualization and containers. Deployment automation includes  intelligence that optimizes the instance types needed to support the capacity and performance requirements of workloads.

Apex Block Storage for Azure features data mobility and interoperability across multi-cloud environments as well as multiple availability zones. A Solution Brief document has more information.

Competitive comparison

With APEX Block Storage (PowerFlex) on-premises, APEX Block Storage for Azure and also for AWS, and AWS Outposts, Dell now has a hybrid-multi-cloud block storage offering.

A comparison with Pure’s Cloud Block Store – its Purity OS ported to the cloud – shows it running in AWS and Azure and so providing a single hybrid multi-cloud environment between Pure on-premises and in AWS and Azure. This is similar to Dell’s APEX Block Store.

Dell has other block storage offerings, including PowerMax and PowerStore. Our understanding is that the PowerStore OS is headed for AWS and Azure and also towards GCP, which is an APEX Block Store (PowerFlex) roadmap item as well.

NetApp’s ONTAP-based Cloud Volumes is available as a first-party service in in AWS, Azure and GCP, having a wider and deeper cloud coverage than APEX Block Storage and Pure’s Cloud Block Store, and provides file, block and object data access.

Our understanding is that HPE will also eventually have a block storage service available on-premises and in the public cloud.