Dell has introduced the PowerVault ME5 Series, an entry-level block storage array purpose-built and optimized for price-sensitive SAN & DAS environments focused on simplicity, performance, and affordability. It would be an understatement to say that this storage array is simple to set up and operate. Valid PowerVault ME5 configurations start as low as $12,000. The PowerVault ME5 Series follows its predecessor, PowerVault ME4 released in 2018. We did a detailed review of the ME4 in June 2019 that you can find here.
Dell PowerVault ME5 vs. ME4
There are similarities between the ME4 Series and the ME5 Series, but the performance and capacity improvements with the ME5 are significant. The upgraded Xeon processors with 2X more cores and controller memory increased to 16GB per controller, making the ME5 worth consideration for that next project.
The ME5 delivers twice the performance compared to the ME4. Sequential read and write throughput increased by over 70 percent. Virtual and linear pool size for the ME5 increased to 4PB per pool/controller. Network performance was enhanced with support for 32Gb FC and an additional 25Gb iSCSI optical host protocols.
Additionally, the ME5 offers multiple protocols, provides support for a range of drive types and capacities including SEDs that can mix with other drives, scales up to 6.72PB capacity validated with Dell PowerEdge Servers, and is delivered with all-inclusive software. Firmware has been designed to support 8PB capacity (4X) with future high-capacity HDDs.
The ME5 system uses existing ME4 expansion bays to scale up to 336 drives meeting the 8PB capacity. The ME5 doubles the ME4 available storage using the same enclosures and expansion bays. And unlike the ME4, the full capacity of 6.72PB and 8PB are supported for both virtual and linear modes.
Dell PowerVault ME5 Configurations
The flexibility of the ME5 is demonstrated with the configuration options. The system can be deployed in an affordable all-HDD configuration to start. Alternatively, the system can be configured as a hybrid array or all-flash to meet the more demanding needs of a growing business. The PowerVault ME5 provides organizations with a storage solution that is easy to deploy and manage while still offering a deep range of features typically found in enterprise storage products.
The ME5 ships with Intel Xeon processors with a dual-active controller architecture, 12GB/sec read, and 10GB/sec write throughput and uses a 12Gb SAS backend protocol for rapid capacity expansion.
The PowerVault ME5012 and ME5024 base arrays start at 2U, and the ME5084 base array starts at 5U. The base models all support dual-active controllers, with each controller including 16GB of memory.
The optional ME5 expansion enclosures let you scale up to 336 drives or 8PB. PowerVault ME412 and ME424 expansion enclosures can only be used with either ME5012 or ME5024 base arrays. The ME484 dense expansion enclosure is supported behind any of the ME5 base arrays. A variety of SSD, 10K, and NLSAS drives (including FIPS-certified SEDs) are available.
HDD vs. SDD balancing act
The debate over purchasing SDD or HDD rages on with conflicting opinions. There are benefits for each technology. SDDs offer improved performance and reduced latency over legacy HDDs; however, it would not make economic sense to invest in SDDs for long-term retention. HDDs would make more sense in this scenario. With the ME5 and associated software, the decision to go all-in on SDDs or HDDs does not have to be made upfront. The ME5, using intelligent auto-tiering software, offers the flexibility to mix media and the intelligence to determine if data should be stored on HDD or SDD, performed in real-time. The auto-tiering software recognizes incoming data patterns and places the data on the appropriate tier, providing better performance.
The software solution addresses the need to assume all data is critical and requires the low latency and high performance of SDDs. Auto-tiering works by logically breaking down volumes into small 4K pages and ranking them based on a sophisticated algorithm. Tiering is performed at the sub-LUN level and requires minimum CPU and memory resources. Essentially, active critical data is moved in real-time to the appropriate media.
The tiering algorithm runs every five seconds, during which time the pages are ranked, scanned, and migrated in real-time. The ranking process is determined by access patterns and the scan checks for highly ranked pages. It is possible to rank pages up or down, but ranking a page down is only performed if space is needed for other high-rank pages. To avoid system degradation, only 80MB are migrated during 5-second intervals. The benefit of auto-tiering is a better utilization of media.
The ME5 also offers SSD Read Cache as a second method to leverage SSDs. Read cache is a special-purpose disk group dedicated to holding volatile copies of data within one or more SSDs. The read cache maintains copies of data in the HDD tier and doesn’t require additional SSDs to make the system fault-tolerant. The SSDs provide performance, and the HDDs offer fault tolerance.
Dell PowerVault ME5 Deployment
The PowerVault ME5 block storage array brings the essential features of high-end storage to small-medium businesses with a focus on simplicity and affordability. Highlighting simplicity, Dell expects new installations to be operational in approximately 15 minutes.
With flexible connectivity options, the PowerVault ME5 arrays offer significant advantages for SAN/DAS workloads with impressive IOPs, massive bandwidth, scale, and low latency. An all-inclusive software model helps to reduce OPEX and improve operational efficiencies, making the ME5 Series a top candidate.
We had a PowerVault ME5 5012 system in the lab to run through the setup and record some performance numbers. The configuration is performed through the included PowerVault Manager with an easy-to-follow interface, along with suggestions making the process relatively simple. Out of the box, the PowerVault ME5 has a common pre-configured static IP configuration so you know what to go to with a web browser as it powers on. Everything is handled through its HTML5 web interface during this deployment, so no need to dust off your favorite SSH or Telnet client. Counting the time to bring it out of the box, get it into the rack, and cabled up, we were able to hit the web interface in under 10 minutes. The additional steps we outline below take about 3-5 minutes to get through. We spent more time finding the FC ports on our switch and available PDU ports than we did working through the initial configuration.