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The latest news about PowerFlex releases and updates


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security PowerFlex CloudLink Joann Kent

PowerFlex and CloudLink: A Powerful Data Security Combination

Joann Kent

Wed, 08 Jul 2020 14:06:22 -0000


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By Joann Kent

Security and operational efficiency continue to top IT executives’ datacenter needs lists. Dell Technologies looks at the complete solution to achieve both so customers can focus on their business outcomes.

Dell Technologies’ PowerFlex is a software-defined storage platform designed to significantly reduce operational and infrastructure complexity, empowering organizations to move faster by delivering flexibility, elasticity, and simplicity with predictable performance and resiliency at scale. PowerFlex provides a unified fabric of compute and storage with scale out flexibility for either of these ingredients to match workload requirements with full lifecycle simplification provided by PowerFlex Manager.  Dell Technologies’ CloudLink, data encryption and key management solution, supports workload deployments from edge to core to cloud, providing a perfect complement to the PowerFlex family that enables flexible encryption tailored to the modern datacenter’s needs. 

With increasing regulatory and compliance requirements, more and more customers now realize how critical encryption is to securing their data centers and need solutions that are built into their platforms.  CloudLink, integrated with PowerFlex, provides reliable data encryption and key management in one solution with the flexibility to satisfy most customer's needs.  

Built-in, not bolt on

CloudLink’s rich feature set integrates directly into the PowerFlex platform allowing our customers access to CloudLink's encryption and key management functionality, including data at rest and data in motion encryption, full key lifecycle management, and lightweight multi-tenancy support.



  • Encryption for PowerFlex 

CloudLink provides software-based data encryption and a full set of key management capabilities for PowerFlex, including:

  • Policy-based key release to ensure data is only unlocked in a safe environment
  • Machine grouping to ensure consistent policy configuration across drives
  • Full key lifecycle management to maintain proper encryption key hygiene
  • Key Management for Self-Encrypting Drives (SED)

SEDs offer high performant hardware-based Data-at-Rest Encryption ensuring that all data in the deployment is safe from prying eyes. On a PowerFlex platform, CloudLink can manage the keys for each individual drive and store them safely within our encrypted vault where customers can leverage CloudLink's full key lifecycle management feature set.  This option, also integrated and deployable with PowerFlex Manager, is ideal for your sensitive data assets that require high-performance.

  •  Encryption for Machines

Sometimes Data-at-Rest Encryption is not enough, and our customers need to encrypt their virtual machines. CloudLink provides VM encryption by deploying agents on the guest OS. CloudLink's agent encryption gives our customers the ability to move encrypted VMs throughout their environment making tasks such as replication, deployment to production from QA, or out to satellite offices, safer and easier. 

 CloudLink’s encryption for machines agent can also encrypt data volumes on bare metal servers allowing customers to keep their data safe even when deployed on legacy hardware.

  •  Key Management over KMIP

When 3rd party encryptors need external key management, they turn to solutions that implement KMIP (Key Management Interoperability Protocol).   This open standard defines how encryptors and key managers communicate.  CloudLink implements the KMIP protocol both as a client and a server to provide basic key storage and management for encryptors such as VMware’s native encryption features, or to plug-in to a customer’s existing keystore.  These capabilities provide the flexibility required for today’s heterogenous environments.


Supporting the modern datacenter

There is a sea change occurring in data centers brought on by the relatively new technology of containers.  451 Research, a global research and advisory firm, released the results of its 2020 Voice of the Enterprise survey, which indicates that as companies consider the move to containerized deployments, security and compliance concerns are top of mind.  However, for so many of the new container technology products from which to choose, proper security is not built-in.



Given the extreme mobility of containers, keeping customers’ data safe as applications move throughout a deployment – especially within the cloud – is a challenge.  To address this gap, we introduced file volume encryption for Kubernetes container deployments in our CloudLink 7.0 release, which has been validated with PowerFlex 3.5.  Our container encryption functionality is built on the same full lifecycle key management and agent-based encryption architectural model that we currently offer for PowerFlex.  We deploy an agent within the container such that it sits directly on the data path.  As the data is saved, we intercept it and make sure it is encrypted as it travels to and then comes to rest in the data store.  


Data security doesn’t need to mean complex management

Hand in hand with PowerFlex, CloudLink provides data encryption and key management with unmatched flexibility, superior reliability, and simple and efficient operations complete with support from Dell as a complete solution.   The PowerFlex Manager is a comprehensive IT operations and lifecycle management tool that drastically simplifies management and ongoing operation.  CloudLink is integrated into this tool to make the deployment of the CloudLink agent a natural part the PowerFlex management framework.


Are you interested in PowerFlex and CloudLink?   Please visit our websites for PowerFlex or CloudLink or reach out to your Dell Technologies sales representative for help.

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HCI hyperconverged infrastructure PowerFlex

PowerFlex: The advantages of disaggregated infrastructure deployments

Kevin M. Jones

Mon, 29 Jun 2020 18:57:26 -0000


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Kevin M Jones - PowerFlex Product Technologist

For several years, there has been a big push from quite a number of IT vendors towards delivering solutions based on Hyperconverged Infrastructure or HCI. The general concept of HCI is to take the three primary components of IT, compute, network and storage, and deliver them in a software defined format within a building block, normally an x86 based server. These building blocks are then joined together to create a larger, more resilient environment. The software defined components are typically a hypervisor to provide compute, virtual adapters and switches for networking, along with some software that takes the local disks attached to the server, combines them with the disks directly attached to the other building blocks and presents them as a virtual storage system back to the environment.

The HCI approach is attractive to customers for a variety of reasons:

  • Easy upgrades by just adding in another building block
  • A single management interface for virtual compute, virtual networking and virtual storage
  • Having one team to manage everything as it is all in one place

There are of course scenarios where the HCI model does not fit, the limitations are frequently associated with the software defined storage part of the environment, situations such as the following:

  • Extra storage is required but additional compute and the associated licensing is not.
  • Paying for database licensing on cores that are being used for virtual storage processes.
  • Unused storage capacity within the HCI environment that is inaccessible to servers outside the HCI environment.
  • A server requirement for a specific workload that does not match the building blocks deployed. 
  • When maintenance is required it impacts both compute and storage.

Several HCI vendors have attempted to address these points but often their solutions to the issues involve a compromise.

What if there was a solution that provided software defined storage that was flexible enough to meet these requirements without compromise?

Step forward PowerFlex, a product flexible enough to be deployed as an HCI architecture, a disaggregated architecture (separate compute and storage layers managed within the same fabric), or a mixture of the two.

So how can PowerFlex be this flexible? 

It is all about how the product was initially designed and developed, it consists predominantly of three separate software components:

  • Storage Data Client (SDC): The software component installed on the operating system that will consume storage. It can be thought of as analogous to a Fibre Channel adapter driver from the days of SAN interconnect storage arrays. It can be installed on a wide selection of operating systems and hypervisors, most Linux distributions, VMware and Windows are supported.
  • Storage Data Server (SDS): The component that is installed on the server or virtual server providing local disk capacity, it works with other servers installed with the SDS software to provide a pool of storage from which volumes are allocated. It is generally installed on a Linux platform.
  • Metadata Manager (MDM): The software management component, it ensures that SDC and the SDS components are behaving themselves and playing nicely together (parents of more than one child will understand).

Each of these components can be installed across a cluster of servers in a variety of ways in order to create flexible deployment scenarios. The SDC and SDS components communicate with one another over a standard TCP/IP network to form an intelligent fabric, this is all overseen by the MDM, which is not in the data path.  

Some pictures will help illustrate this far better than I can with words.

By installing the SDC (the C in a yellow box) and the SDS (the S in a green box) on to the same server, an HCI environment is created. 

If the SDC and SDS are installed on dedicated servers, a disaggregated infrastructure is created

And because PowerFlex is entirely flexible (the clue is in the name), HCI and disaggregated architectures can be mixed within the same environment.


What are the advantages of deploying a disaggregated environment?

  • MAXIMUM FLEXIBILITY - Compute and storage resources can be scaled independently.
  • CLOUD-LIKE ECONOMICS – following on from above – what if an application needs to cope with a sudden doubling of compute resource (for example, to cope with a one-off business event)? With a disaggregated deployment, the extra compute-only resources can be added temporarily into the environment, ride the peak demand, then retire afterwards, reducing expenditure by only using what is needed.
  • MAXIMISE STORAGE UTILISATION - Completely heterogeneous environments can share the same storage pool.
  • CHOOSE THE CORRECT CPU FOR THE WORKLOAD - Servers with frequency optimised processors can be deployed for database use and not require licenses for cores potentially performing processing related to storage.
  • AVOID CREATING MULTIPLE ISLANDS OF SOFTWARE DEFINED STORAGE - A mixture of hypervisors and operating systems can be deployed within the same environment; VMware, Hyper-V and Red Hat Virtualisation, along with operating systems running on bare metal hardware, all accessing the same storage.
  • UPDATE STORAGE & COMPUTE INDEPENDENTLY - Maintenance can be performed on storage nodes completely independently of compute nodes and vice versa, thereby simplifying planned downtime. This can dramatically simplify operations, especially on larger clusters and prevents storage and compute operators from accidentally treading on each other’s toes!

Whilst HCI deployments are ideal for environments where compute requirements and storage capacity increases remain in lockstep, there are many use cases where compute and storage needs grow independently, PowerFlex is capable of serving both requirements. 

PowerFlex was built to allow this disaggregation of resources from day one, which means that there is no downside to performance or capacity when storage nodes are added to existing clusters, in fact there are only positives, with increased performance, capacity and resilience, setting PowerFlex apart from many other software defined storage products. 



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HPC VMware Cloud Foundation PowerFlex

Dell EMC PowerFlex and VMware Cloud Foundation for High Performance Applications

Michael Richtberg

Thu, 25 Jun 2020 13:10:33 -0000


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By Michael Richtberg


The world in 2020 has shown all industries that innovation is necessary to thrive in all conditions. VMware Cloud Foundation (VCF) hybrid cloud platform was crafted by innovators who realize the biggest asset our customers have is their information technology and the data that runs the business. The VCF offering takes the complexity out of operationalizing infrastructure to enable greater elasticity, growth, and simplification through improved automation. VCF enables options available using on-premises and multi-cloud deployments to address ever changing enterprise needs.


VMware included design factors that anticipated customers’ use of varying storage options in the flexibility of implementing VCF. VMware vSAN is the standard for VCF hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) deployments and is directly integrated into vSphere and VCF. For those circumstances where workloads or customer resource usage require alternative storage methods, VMware built flexibility into the VCF storage offering. Just as we see a wide variety in desktop computing devices, one size doesn't fit all applies to the enterprise storage products as well. Dell Technologies’ PowerFlex (formerly VxFlex) provides a software-defined mechanism to add a combination of compute and storage with scale out flexibility. As customers look to software-defined operational constructs for agility, PowerFlex provides an adjustable means to add the right balance of storage resources while enabling non-disruptive additions without painful migrations as demands increase.


Joining the Dell Technologies Cloud family as a validated design, Dell EMC PowerFlex helps customers simplify their path to hybrid cloud by combining the power of Dell EMC infrastructure with VMware Cloud Foundation software as supplemental storage. As a high-performance, scale out, software-defined block storage product, PowerFlex provides a combination of storage and compute in a unified fabric that's well equipped to service particularly challenging workloads. The scalability of compute and/or storage in a modular architecture provides an asymmetrical (2-layer) option to add capacity to either compute or storage independently. PowerFlex makes it possible to transform from a traditional three-tier architecture to a modern data center without any trade-offs between performance, resilience or future expansion.



PowerFlex significantly reduces operational and infrastructure complexity, empowering organizations to move faster by delivering flexibility, elasticity, and simplicity with predictable performance and resiliency at scale for deployments. PowerFlex Manager is a key element of our engineered systems providing a full lifecycle administration experience for PowerFlex from day 0 through expansions and upgrades which is independent, but complementary to the full stack life cycle management available through VCF via SDDC Manager. A cornerstone value proposition of VCF is administering the lifecycle management of OS upgrades, vSphere updates, vRealize monitoring, automation and NSX administration. PowerFlex manager works in parallel with VCF to deliver a comprehensive lifecycle experience for the physical ingredients and for the PowerFlex software-define storage layer. PowerFlex also offers a vRealize Operations plug-in for a unified monitoring capability from VMware vRealize Suite which is included in most VCF editions. From a storage management perspective, PowerFlex utilizes a management system that complements VCF and VMware vSphere by working within the appropriate vCenter management constructs. PowerFlex Manager provides the administration of PowerFlex storage functions, while VCF and vCenter manages the allocation of LUNs to provisioned VMFS file systems to provide data stores for the provisioned workloads.



PowerFlex systems enables customers to scale from a small environment to enterprise scale with over a thousand nodes. In addition, it provides enterprise grade data protection, multi-tenant capabilities, and add-on enterprise features such as QoS, thin provisioning, compression and snapshots. PowerFlex systems deliver the performance and time-to-value required to meet the demands of the modern enterprise data center.


Does Supplemental Storage Mean Slow or Light Workload Use Cases?


PowerFlex provides a Dell Technologies validated design as a supplemental storage platform for VCF, unlocking the value of PowerFlex to be realized by customers within the VCF environment. By providing sub-millisecond latency, high IOPS and high throughput with linearity as nodes join the fabric, the result is a very predictable scaling profile that accelerates the VCF vision within the datacenter.


PowerFlex, as a part of VCF, can help solve for even the most demanding of applications. Using the supplemental capabilities to service workloads with the highest of efficiency provides a best of class performance experience. Some illustrative examples of demanding application workloads validated with PowerFlex, independent of VCF, include the following:



SAP HANA certified for PowerFlex integrated rack in both 4-socket and 2-socket offerings (certification details). Highly efficient in hosting up to six production HANA instances per 4-socket server. Our capabilities outperform external competitors by hosting 2x the capacity. The Configuration and Deployment Best Practices for SAP HANA white paper provides details. While this white paper illustrates a single layer architecture, even better performance characteristics are achievable using the VCF aligned 2-layer architectural implementation of PowerFlex.

Oracle RAC & Microsoft SQL

Flexibility to run compute and storage on separate hardware results in significant reduction of database licensing cost.

  • Oracle RAC Solution (white paper) – Get over 1 Million IOPs with less than 1ms latency with Oracle 12c RAC database transactions in just six nodes delivering 33GB/sec throughput (5.6GB/sec per node).
  • Oracle 19c RAC TPC-C achieving more than 10 Million TPMs in eight nodes (white paper).
  • MS SQL 2019 Solution (white paper) or MS SQL 2019 Big Data Cluster with Kubernetes (white paper) delivering  approximately 9 Million SQL Server transactions (TPMs) with less than 1ms latency using just five storage nodes.

SAS Analytics

Validated/certified by SAS for running SAS mixed analytics workloads (white paper) providing  an average throughput of 210 MBs per core (40% greater than their recommended 150 MB/sec needed for certification).


Elastic Stack

The validated solution (white paper) with Elastic provides customers with the required high-performance, scalable, block-based IO with flexible deployment options in multiple operating environments (Windows, Linux, Virtualized/Bare Metal). Elastic validated the efficiency of PowerFlex using only three compute and 4 storage nodes to deliver ~1 billion indexing events measured by Elastic’s Rally benchmarking tool.



The validated PowerFlex solution for Epic delivers 6x9’s availability and high performance for critical the EPIC hyperspace workloads while simultaneously enabling hosting the VDI with the operational and analytical databases for a completely integrated infrastructure option.



For customers deploying Kubernetes container-based database deployments like Cassandra, PowerFlex provides 300,000 operations/second for 10 million operations (Read intensive operations) with avg read latency of 1ms on just eight nodes.


PowerFlex gives Dell Technologies the ability to help customers address diverse infrastructure needs. For more information on all of the Dell Technologies storage options with Cloud Validated Designs for VMware Cloud Foundation, please view our white paper. The implementation guide for using PowerFlex for supplemental storage provides the simple steps to provide complementary storage options for VCF deployments. For more information on the PowerFlex product family and workload solutions, please see the product page here. The PowerFlex White Paper - Technical Overview also provides a comprehensive perspective how organizations can begin changing the way they think about a modern data center architecture. Please contact your local Dell sales representative for more information.


Other pre-tested Dell Technologies Storage products validated for VMware Cloud Foundation that provide the capabilities to independently scale storage and compute include the offerings below. You can find more details in the Dell Technologies Cloud Validated Designs document.


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