VMworld 2017: XtremIO X2–the best clean-sheet AFA gets better.

imageThis week marks the launch of the next generation of an incredible successful product – Dell EMC XtremIO.

The best way to think of X2 as the 2nd generation of XtremIO – it takes the great foundation of the strengths of XtremIO and builds on them.

The core architecture of keeping all the metadata in memory, all the time, and architecting that as a distributed system that is tightly coupled scale-out cluster (see Understanding Storage architectures).   That has been, and continues to be the essence of what customers love about XtremIO – fantastic consistent performance, and data services that are global, and always on.

What hasn’t changed = the core strengths of XtremIO.  

  • XtremIO continues to be the platform and stack to beat when it comes to inline data reduction and incredible copy services – because of the distributed in-memory
  • XtremIO continues to be one of the simplest external storage array platforms to design and manage, because it’s scaling model is simple, it’s behaviors so linear, so constant.

What has improved are the points of where XtremIO could get better:

  1. Scale up, and out = multi-dimensional scaling model.   This gives customers a fundamentally better economic model than we were able to do before.
  2. Improved data services – a 25% improvement in data reduction rates – and a peek at some fascinating things coming around remote replication.
  3. Simplifying the hardware stack.   People that know XtremIO know that the battery backup unit in each appliance and relatively complex cabling was an unnecessary complication.
  4. Simpler management in general.

As I’m here at VMworld 2017, and talk to a lot of customers – it’s worth making a “step back and see the forest for the trees” comment.   

The Dell Technologies position (therefore the shared position of Dell EMC and VMware) on what is happening in the storage world is that the majority of x86 workloads are ready to run on SDS like ScaleIO and vSAN, and their HCI system instantiations (VxRail, VxRack).  

At the same time, there are workloads that will remain on external storage arrays for the foreseeable future: ones that have very specific data services needs, ones that have very specific capacity density needs that outstrip industry-standard x86 hardware designs, ones that have performance latency jitter requirements that exceed what you can get with loosely coupled distributed systems.   These are important, but exceptional cases.

  • XtremIO has EXCEPTIONAL copy data services and data reduction services, and now an amazing new remote replication capability.
  • XtremIO has EXCEPTIONAL of the most linear low-latency behaviors with it’s tightly coupled architecture and shared memory model.
  • XtremIO now has EXCEPTIONAL multi-dimensional scaling behavior – both in performance and capacity densities.

These are amongst the sustained sweet spots for the External Storage array market – and why we’re really excited about this new release!

One other element of food for thought.   Of the 350,000 vSphere customers, about 20,000 or so of them are using SDS and HCI in some form – if you look across the HCI/SDS ecosystems (and where vSAN DIY and VxRail lead the way).   

Now expand your perspective to contemplate the whole universe of things that are not vSphere.  

While there’s no question that there is huge growth in SDS/HCI – it’s simply no a zero-sum game.   The place for external storage systems are cases where either specific data services, or extreme capacity/performance density that exceeds industry standard hardware, or the very tight latency jitter characteristics of tightly coupled systems.  External Storage arrays are here for the long term, and XtremIO X2 is a great update to a key player in that universe!

Congrats to the whole XtremIO team!

Now – for more details – please check out Itzik Reich (XtremIO CTO and blogger extraordinare) here, and if you want more of my thoughts, read on past the break!

What we’ll do now is break down many of the new things in XtremIO X2.

A new multi-dimensional scaling model.


In XtremIO X1 – each X-Brick could support 25 SSDs – in the new X2 X-Brick can support up to 72.  Note the density relative to a generic x86 host used in an SDS model.

This is achieved through a new design, but also due to the elimination of the battery backup unit (which also nets a system cabling complexity improvement that is material).

While we could scale out a little in X1 within a controller – this new scale-up density means that customers can scale up a single X-brick 3x more, and do up to 138TB raw capacity per X-Brick.   It also means that a 8 X-Brick cluster is more than 1PB raw, which relatively conservatively is up to 5.5PB effective.

Clearly – this is also due to an increase in local memory per X-Brick (384GB all the way up to 1TB for the largest most high-density X-Brick), as well as software improvements for the distributed meta data map.

Beyond those metrics – the internal limits all either doubled or quadrupled:

  • Number of initiators defined per initiator group 128 (2x)
  • Number of initiators defined per cluster 4096 (4x)
  • Number of initiator groups defined per cluster 4096 (4x)
  • Number of volumes per initiator group 8192 (4x)
  • Number of volumes and snapshots defined per cluster 32768 (4x)
  • Number of mapped volumes/snapshots 16384 (2x)
  • Max Number of Mappings per cluster (volumes to IGs) 32768 (2x)
  • Maximum number of CGs per cluster 1024(2x)
  • Maximum volumes per CG 1024 (4x)
  • Maximum snapshots per volume (VSG) 2048 (4x)

Simpler management.  

The march away from any and all java legacy continues.   The new XtremIO UI is all HTML-5, fresh and clean.   People liked the simplicity of management of XtremIO – but HTML-5 is a leap forward.


Performance got better – across the board.

One of the most common XtremIO use cases are scaled EuC/VDI deployments – where it’s EXTREME linearity of performance and EXTREME copy data services really shine.  When we beat on both X1 and X2 with a similar VDI workload – latencies at 2,500 knowledge workers in LoginVSI – the performance of X2 was roughly 5x better where all other things are held constant.


Refinement of EXCEPTIONAL “inline all the time” global data reduction services.

While all data reduction techniques are generally beneficial, they aren’t all the same.

XtremIO’s global metadata RAM approach means that data reduction has always been a strength – particularly very, very consistent behaviors.   That said – there’s always an opportunity to get even better.

While XtremIO has always been one of the most efficient dedupe engines on the market, one area were there was a good opportunity for improvement was compression – which in some use cases is a bigger factor than Dedupe (for example – with databases).   There’s a huge improvement in the core algorithms and customers should expect to see a big improvement in total data efficiency.


And – since this is VMworld – XtremIO customers continue to enjoy amazing integration with vSphere, from VAAI performance that is off the charts, to core vCenter HTML 5.0 client integration, to killer vRealize Automation and Operations integration, and more.

To all our XtremIO customers –THANK YOU.   I talked to many of you at VMworld – and it was great to hear what you love about XtremIO.   I can’t wait to hear your feedback about XtremIO X2 – and again, congrats to the product team!