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What’s New with Dell Unity OE Version 5.2?

Ryan Poulin

Tue, 10 May 2022 21:06:27 -0000


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Did you know that Dell Unity had a new software release on April 29, 2022? No? With all the hype of Dell Technologies World 2022, which included a number of new products, software, and company partnership announcements, Dell Unity may have flown under the radar with one of the most important software updates in its history. But fear not, I have you covered. This software release delivers several important storage technologies designed to simplify how users address capacity expansion and recover data faster, expand disaster recovery topologies, increase storage utilization, and cost-effectively upgrade Dell Unity XT systems while lowering capital and operating expenses. The following sections highlight the updates in this release.


Unity XT data-in-place conversions

So, you purchased a Unity XT 480/F or 680/F system, but now it’s under-sized and handling more than you planned for. With storage architects and administrators trying to do more with less, it is not uncommon that new requirements come up and a storage system is pushed to its limits. Whether you are maxing out performance and capacity, or are looking for higher limits, a data-in-place (DIP) conversion may be just what is needed.

In OE version 5.2, Hybrid (HFA) or All Flash (AFA) Unity XT 480 and 680 systems can be upgraded to a higher Dell Unity model of the same type. This means that an HFA system can upgrade to a higher model HFA system, and an AFA system can be upgraded to a higher model AFA system. For the Unity XT 480, it can be directly upgraded to a Unity XT 680 or 880 model system. The Unity XT 680 can be upgraded to the Unity XT 880 model system. This upgrade not only increases the performance potential of the Storage Processors, but the higher models also include higher system limits. Data-in-place upgrades reuse the same I/O modules, SFPs, and power supplies from the replaced Storage Processors, and can either be completed online or offline.

During an online upgrade, one Storage Processor (SP) is replaced at a time. All hosts/servers that are configured with high availability can remain online and run I/O to the system. This procedure closely mimics a software non-disruptive upgrade where one SP is upgraded at a time. An offline DIP upgrade needs to occur during complete application downtime. Although the system is offline, this upgrade process does complete faster because both storage processors are replaced at the same time. After completing the upgrade, the model will be seen in Unisphere, Unisphere CLI, and REST API as the new model, as if it came from the factory.


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I/O module conversions

Performance is always impacted by the slowest component in an environment, almost like the weakest link in a chain. For some, infrastructure within an environment may be upgraded, leaving the storage system limited due to its current configuration. Do you have your Unity XT 16Gb Fibre Channel front end ports connected to a 32Gb switch? If your answer is Yes, then why not upgrade the storage too? OE version 5.2 supports upgrading 16Gb Fibre Channel modules in existing Unity XT systems to the 32Gb Fibre Channel modules.

What used to be a non-data-in-place conversion can now be achieved through a new service script without impacting the data on the system. During the upgrade procedure, the Fibre Channel I/O modules are upgraded in an NDU manner. One Fibre Channel module is replaced in one storage processor, while any I/O to the system is serviced by the peer SP. After the upgrade is complete and the system is utilizing the new 32 Gb I/O modules and SFPs, the front end ports on the Unity XT system are no longer the weakest link.

For more information about Unity XT data-in-place upgrades or I/O module conversions, see the Dell Unity XT: Introduction to the Platform white paper. 

Hybrid flash system enhancements

Dell Unity hybrid systems continue to be a compelling storage solution for small to mid-size enterprises, supporting general purpose workloads that don’t need the speed and low latency of All Flash or NVMe architectures. The following are software enhancements for hybrid systems in OE version 5.2.

Dynamic pools

Dynamic pools were first introduced in OE version 4.2 for All Flash systems. This pool type drops the traditional pool RAID Group based configuration in favor of advanced RAID techniques and distributed sparing. Dynamic pools allow for better storage utilization than the previous pool type, and more simplified planning. Users no longer need to add multiples of drive sets to achieve a particular capacity. In most cases, a dynamic pool can be expanded with a single drive.

Just like my youngest child watching his older brother do things he can’t, hybrid systems have been left wondering when it will be their turn. With OE version 5.2, the time has come. In OE version 5.2, dynamic pools can be created on any hybrid flash system, not just Unity XT if that is what you are thinking. A dynamic pool can also be a single drive type or include multiple drive types just like their traditional pool counterparts. For each drive type within a dynamic pool, a minimum drive count is required, but expanding an existing tier with a single drive is possible in most situations. Dynamic pools also support FAST VP and FAST Cache on hybrid systems.

For more details see the Dell Unity: Dynamic Pools white paper.

Data reduction

Do you have a hybrid Unity XT system and could use some extra capacity? What if I told you, it’s free? While I can’t send you free drives through a blog, I can let you know that data reduction and advanced deduplication are now supported on hybrid pools within hybrid model Unity XT systems. 

To support Data Reduction, the pool must contain a flash tier whose total usable capacity meets or exceeds 10% of the total pool capacity. Once the system is running OE version 5.2, you can enable data reduction with and without advanced deduplication on existing resources or new resources. The pool type can also either be traditional or dynamic.

For more details see the Dell Unity: Data Reduction white paper.

File enhancements


Are you feeling limited by the replication topologies that are currently supported? The OE version 5.2 release may just have what you need to support the file replication topology of your dreams, or maybe just what your data protection requirements dictate. In this release, each file resource supports a maximum of four replication sessions, which includes the inbound replication sessions and the outbound replication sessions. What’s different in this release is that one of the four replication sessions can be synchronous, and you can also create a replication session outbound from a synchronous replication destination. The picture below shows a replication topology that is now possible using the OE version 5.2 release. Note: All systems within the topology must be running version OE version 5.2 or later to support these new topologies.

For more details see the Dell Unity: Replication Technologies white paper.

LDAP aliases

Have you ever had an IP address change in your environment, which required you to update each component within the environment that used it? I have, and even though I only use a test lab, it still caused me heartburn. Depending on the environment, the changes required can be a long and tedious process. 

In OE version 5.2, an update to LDAP can save you some time in the future. Now when configuring LDAP server addresses manually on a NAS Server, users can either enter the LDAP server IP or Fully Qualified Domain Name (FQDN). By entering the FQDN, an IP change on the LDAP server no longer requires changing the LDAP configuration on each NAS server. The NAS server automatically picks up the new IP using DNS. Taking the time to update an existing configuration can save a bunch of time in the future, especially when the change needs to occur late at night or on weekends.

For more details see the Dell Unity: NAS Capabilities white paper.


I’ve outlined just a few of the major features in the Dell Unity OE version 5.2 release. For more information about other features in this release, check out these resources:

Author: Ryan Poulin

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