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Dell EMC VPLEX OverviewUNIXBusinessApplication

Dell EMC VPLEX is #1 ranked solution in top Storage Management tools. PeerSpot users give Dell EMC VPLEX an average rating of 8 out of 10. Dell EMC VPLEX is most commonly compared to IBM Spectrum Virtualize: Dell EMC VPLEX vs IBM Spectrum Virtualize. The top industry researching this solution are professionals from a comms service provider, accounting for 28% of all views.
What is Dell EMC VPLEX?
Wth EMC VPLEX you can deploy next-generation virtualization architecture to enable simultaneous information access within, between, and across data centers, move applications, virtual machines, and data in and between data centers without impacting users and deliver application and data availability within the data center and over distance with full infrastructure utilization and zero downtime.
Buyer's Guide

Download the Storage Management Buyer's Guide including reviews and more. Updated: January 2022

Dell EMC VPLEX Customers
Kindred Healthcare, Regis Aged Care, WeBank SpA, Panduit, Munson Healthcare
Dell EMC VPLEX Video

Archived Dell EMC VPLEX Reviews (more than two years old)

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it_user797607
CEO with 11-50 employees
User
Corporate storage for databases and file servers supporting a multi-vendor structure

What is our primary use case?

Corporate storage for VMware, databases, and file servers supporting a multi-vendor structure with several storage models.

How has it helped my organization?

Hot storage maintenance Vendor agnostic environment High availability Data recovery (DR)

What is most valuable?

Storage virtualization and geographic resilience for Metro Sans, plus a great performance improvement.

What needs improvement?

VPLEX hardware migration to spare equipment in case of major disruption. Today, it needs a huge effort that is not acceptable during disaster recovery.

For how long have I used the solution?

Three to five years.

What is our primary use case?

Corporate storage for VMware, databases, and file servers supporting a multi-vendor structure with several storage models.

How has it helped my organization?

  • Hot storage maintenance
  • Vendor agnostic environment
  • High availability
  • Data recovery (DR)

What is most valuable?

Storage virtualization and geographic resilience for Metro Sans, plus a great performance improvement.

What needs improvement?

  • VPLEX hardware migration to spare equipment in case of major disruption.
  • Today, it needs a huge effort that is not acceptable during disaster recovery.

For how long have I used the solution?

Three to five years.
Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
it_user607431
Infrastructure Engineer at a tech services company with 10,001+ employees
Real User
RecoverPoint allows us to replicate non-EMC vendor storage arrays.

What is most valuable?

For non-disruptive migrations For replicating non-EMC vendor storage arrays using RecoverPoint High availability using VPLEX Metro Used as additional read cache for storage arrays

How has it helped my organization?

We have see performance improvement in our databases. We can use older arrays for archiving.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have used VPLEX for over five years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

We have not had any stability issues.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

While scaling VPLEX from 2-engine to 4-engine, you need to be careful with the design connecting to VMAX. In our environment, we encountered an imbalance on VPLEX BE ports. But, we resolved that issue with the help of EMC. …

What is most valuable?

  • For non-disruptive migrations
  • For replicating non-EMC vendor storage arrays using RecoverPoint
  • High availability using VPLEX Metro
  • Used as additional read cache for storage arrays

How has it helped my organization?

We have see performance improvement in our databases. We can use older arrays for archiving.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have used VPLEX for over five years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

We have not had any stability issues.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

While scaling VPLEX from 2-engine to 4-engine, you need to be careful with the design connecting to VMAX. In our environment, we encountered an imbalance on VPLEX BE ports. But, we resolved that issue with the help of EMC.

How are customer service and technical support?

Technical support is exceptional.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We did not previously use a different solution.

How was the initial setup?

Initial setup was a little bit complex when connecting to VMAX.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We evaluated IBM SVC.

What other advice do I have?

Initial architecture is important. It will help you to scale-out the solution easily.

Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: We are a partner to EMC.
Find out what your peers are saying about Dell EMC, NetApp, Huawei and others in Storage Management. Updated: January 2022.
563,148 professionals have used our research since 2012.
it_user607419
Systems Consultant at a tech company with 1,001-5,000 employees
MSP
Clustering allows us to replicate our data transparently.

What is most valuable?

Clustering (Metro or Geo). It helps organizations to instantly replicate their data to the backup site, while making this totally transparent to the end users.

How has it helped my organization?

It enables our customers to instantly distribute their block data across two different sites.

What needs improvement?

Maybe setup a one-to-many cluster, instead of just a 1-to-1. If EMC could come up with a way to establish a cluster from one VPLEX to many VPLEX(s), that would allow organizations to be able to have more than one copy of their data, and therefore have one, or many, backup (or disaster recovery) sites.

Currently, a cluster can only be established between 2 VPLEX nodes. For example, if a customer has 3 sites, he can’t replicate data from Site #1 to both Site #2 and Site #3. Therefore, with VPLEX, only a 1-to-1 replication is possible.

If there was a way to set up a one-to-many or many-to-one replication, then it would allow customers to have more than one backup site.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have used VPLEX for three years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

We have not had any stability issues.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

We have not had any scalability issues.

How are customer service and technical support?

Technical support is excellent.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We did not have any previous solutions.

How was the initial setup?

The procedure is very clear and easy to follow.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We evaluated EMC RecoverPoint.

What other advice do I have?

It’s a great product; very reliable. Just get trained and understand all the concepts around EMC VPLEX.

Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: We are EMC partners.
it_user607407
IT Infrastructure analyst at a energy/utilities company with 1,001-5,000 employees
Vendor
We can move disks online without disruption to the environment. The production environment needs improvement.

What is most valuable?

The ability to move disks online without disruption to the environment.

Ability to create geographically distributed clusters.

How has it helped my organization?

Possibility to replicate volumes with storage devices from multiple vendors.

What needs improvement?

The production environment needs improvement.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have used VPLEX for five years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

We experienced increases in latency in accesses to disks and some bugs on engines.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

I did not have problem with scalability.

How are customer service and technical support?

There were delays in solving problems.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

I have two solutions: HPE 3PAR and VPLEX.

How was the initial setup?

It is very laborious to allocate volumes on servers.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

The VPLEX, along with the RecoverPoint price, can raise the price a lot.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

Due to the large number of models and different brands it is a very good solution to virtualize volumes.

What other advice do I have?

Evaluate the native features and a possibility of a good integration with the RecoverPoint.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
it_user607395
Lead Technical Architect, Global Services, Systems Integration, North America at a comms service provider with 10,001+ employees
Vendor
Volume replication can be done in almost real time.

What is most valuable?

Volume replication in almost real time, across metro distances.

How has it helped my organization?

With the help of EMC VPLEX, we improved the architecture of the geographic redundant infrastructure our application required.

What needs improvement?

Cost. This is really expensive.

For how long have I used the solution?

I’ve used VPLEX for six months, during the architecture and implementation phase of the project.

How are customer service and technical support?

I was in contact with presales support only, which did a great job.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We did use a previous solution, but it had a totally different architecture. With the help of EMC VPLEX we simplified the architecture and improved the response…

What is most valuable?

Volume replication in almost real time, across metro distances.

How has it helped my organization?

With the help of EMC VPLEX, we improved the architecture of the geographic redundant infrastructure our application required.

What needs improvement?

Cost. This is really expensive.

For how long have I used the solution?

I’ve used VPLEX for six months, during the architecture and implementation phase of the project.

How are customer service and technical support?

I was in contact with presales support only, which did a great job.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We did use a previous solution, but it had a totally different architecture. With the help of EMC VPLEX we simplified the architecture and improved the response time.

How was the initial setup?

The setup is pretty complex, since the solution is stretched across two sites at metro distances.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

At the time of the project, I was not aware of any similar product.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
it_user605046
Senior Infrastructure Architect - Storage at a healthcare company with 1,001-5,000 employees
Vendor
Cross datacenter automated failover means we don't have unpredictable manual failovers.

What is most valuable?

Cross datacenter automated failover.

How has it helped my organization?

My organization uses two data centers. In the past, we would have to manually failover between those data centers. This timing would be unpredictable since it required human interaction. With VPLEX, we are able to automate this process where failovers between sites now occur automatically.

What needs improvement?

The licensing model for enterprise storage (EMC VMAX) and integrating the solution into the actual storage frames instead of a separate product. I do believe Dell EMC is addressing both of these concerns in current and future product offerings.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have used EMC VPLEX for three years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

We have not had stability issues.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

We have not had scalability issues.

How are customer service and technical support?

The solution just runs and is very stable. It is only after an issue, such as a site disruption, that we even contact support to validate everything is healthy.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We didn’t have a previous solution.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup was straightforward. There was a bit of a learning curve on our part since this was our first implementation of a storage virtualization product.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

Our current licensing model is mid-tier arrays (EMC VNX) that are licensed based on frame, which lends itself to putting all servers attached to that frame under VPLEX control. The enterprise arrays (EMC VMAX) are capacity based. This makes using VPLEX on these frames very expensive and we only do the systems that are most critical and require failover between sites on these frames. Dell EMC has told me they are addressing this concern.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We did not evaluate any alternatives.

What other advice do I have?

We used it to primarily provide automated failover to our VMware virtualized environment. I would highly recommend any organization get their virtualization team involved right from the beginning. Depending on what you are trying to accomplish, you may have to change how you setup your VMware environment to accommodate the VPLEX implementation.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
it_user605055
Lead Engineer - Enterprise Infrastructure Services (Core Engineering) at a healthcare company with 10,001+ employees
Vendor
We do data migrations without disruption. It could support more backend storage per unit.

What is most valuable?

Based on our requirements, we bought this product for doing online data migrations without data disruption, but we realized that there is a limit to backend storage that can be encapsulate to it. Hence, we ended up spending more money of buying additional VPLEXs to support more backend storage, which in turn came out as an expensive solution for us.

How has it helped my organization?

We don't see any improvement in the organizational functions.

What needs improvement?

If it can support more backend storage per VPLEX.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have used EMC VPLEX for three years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

We have had stability issues. It adds another layer of connectivity and hence another layer of single point of failure.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

We never went into a situation of upgrading/scaling out the engines on the VPLEX.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

Our main motive was to perform data migrations across the data centers from one environment to another and that is why we bought this product. But we ended up doing database and host-based data migrations due to the complexity of the product, which adds another layer of connectivity. For a new application setup, it worked like a charm.

How was the initial setup?

It was straightforward to deploy the VPLEX, but the trick was the encapsulation of existing live applications to the VPLEX. It would required downtime.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

It’s a bit of an expensive solution if you have multiple storage arrays that need to be encapsulated.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We were recommended by EMC to use this product for our dynamic environment where we do a lot of data migrations in and out.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
ITCS user
Senior Systems Engineer - Storage Resource Management at a tech services company with 5,001-10,000 employees
Consultant
We can move LUNs non-disruptively​ between arrays.

What is most valuable?

To move LUNs non-disruptively between arrays and there is a mirrored LUN between data centers, that is to read/write on both sides which are very helpful features.

How has it helped my organization?

The business continuity is sorted, as the data is in two data centers, i.e., readable and writable. If one side goes done, there is no downtime and the other side continues non-disruptively.

What needs improvement?

It needs to improve the thin reclaim on certain arrays.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have used this solution for three years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

I have not encountered any stability issues.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

I have not encountered any scalability issues.

How are customer service and technical support?

The technical support is very good.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

Initially, I was using IBM SVC. It was a bit different and it was not a true active-active solution.

How was the initial setup?

The setup was a bit complex in order to split the traffic and the zoning.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

There are two license types, i.e., Metro and Local.

What other advice do I have?

Make sure this is what you need.

Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: I support this at a customer site but my company is also a partner with Dell EMC.
it_user600753
Technical Team Lead at a tech services company with 501-1,000 employees
Consultant
I like that Metro permits synchronous mirroring of data between two distant data centers, facilitating greater protection of data.

What is most valuable?

The review concerns EMC VPLEX product, which can be purchased/used in two different ways :

1) VPLEX Local

2) VPLEX Metro.

VPLEX Local is used to virtualize the storage locally, within the same data center.

With VPLEX Local, one possible use case is to mirror data between two local arrays. In this way if we lose one array then the data is still accessible to production server on the second local array.

With VPLEX Metro the data can be mirrored between two distant arrays, each one installed on a different data center. With this configuration even if we lose an overall data center (disaster condition), then the data is still available on the other site. This is an additional level of data security which permits to face up disaster conditions.

Another use case offered by VPLEX (either Local or Metro configurations) is transparent data migration.

Without VPLEX, the storage migration (or data migration) can be done in two ways:

- Host based : the host manages the data migration, consuming from its own resources (CPU, RAM etc). A downtime can be needed as part of the host based migration.

- Array based: migration is handled by the array, but a downtime has to be scheduled host side to discover the new storage.

With VPLEX we can migrate data from one array to another, or within the same array while a server is accessing data.

How has it helped my organization?

I’ll give four examples:

  1. VPLEX Local configuration: We did experience a serious issue where a storage array needed to be rebooted on a production environment. Fortunately this array was encapsulated under VPLEX, and so we were able to migrate data to another array transparently to users, then reboot the problematic array. Finally we migrated back the data from the “spare array” to the source one. During all these operations no user was aware of migrations, and no downtime was consumed.
  2. VPLEX Local configuration: A new array was purchased then encapsulated under VPLEX. The new array had more performance than existing ones, so a data migration to the new storage was recommended from application owners to ameliorate performance. The data migration was done transparently and without application downtime.
  3. VPLEX Metro configuration: From a disaster recovery point of view, VPLEX Metro offers more security to data. We didn’t encounter a disaster yet, but we did test the failover of applications to a second site during implementation and the test was really convenient. I would also recommend adding RecoverPoint to the VPLEX Metro solution to add more security to production data.
  4. VPLEX deployed for RecoverPoint: We have EMC RecoverPoint that we use to replicate data from non EMC arrays to a VNX. In this case we have to encapsulate the non EMC array under VPLEX then use VPLEX Splitter to replicate data. Without VPLEX, use of RecoverPoint on non EMC arrays would not be possible.

What needs improvement?

Much room for improvement exists. For example:

  • Storage tiering cannot be handled by VPLEX, as it is performed by back end arrays. It would be great if we can configure tiering between arrays!
  • When configuring a mirror (RAID1) device on two devices A & B, performance of the mirror depends on A & B individual performances. The response time of this mirror will be equal to the lowest response time of the A or B devices. It would be preferable that the mirror response time is equal to greater performance of single components, by setting a preferred access path for example (this feature exists on IBM SVC).
  • No native data service exists on VPLEX (I mean snapshotting, replication features, etc). We have to buy other products such as ViPR to be able to use those features.

For how long have I used the solution?

We have used this solution for four years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

We have not encountered any stability issues.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

We have not encountered any scalability issues.

How are customer service and technical support?

The level of technical support is 10/10. Over four years we didn’t encounter any issues with VPLEX technical support.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

SVC was used locally. VPLEX Metro has unique capabilities so we switched to VPLEX Metro as we had to implement a two active data center architecture.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup was not really complex. The only difficulty was to plan downtimes for each platform, as the initial encapsulation requires a new storage discovery from the host perspective.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

Regarding licensing, VPLEX uses capacity licensing. I think before purchasing the VPLEX you must study your data growth over the next five years and from the beginning order the overall capacity licenses. Extensions as much more expansive than the first purchase.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We determined that no other products offered VPLEX Metro capabilities in 2012. The only possibility to implement Metro features without VPLEX is to use Symantec Volume Manager software, but this is a software solution, without cache options and with more licenses to purchase, and more deployments to implement. VPLEX Metro was the only solution for our targeted architecture.

What other advice do I have?

VPLEX offers a large compatibility matrix and valuable features. The technical support is also appreciated for this product so I would encourage others to purchase it.

VPLEX would not be your best solution, only if you want to implement tiering between arrays. If you use VPLEX the storage tiering will be handled on back end arrays. Other use cases can be implemented with VPLEX, individually or with other EMC DELL products.

Also if you plan to use RecoverPoint Replication features on non EMC arrays, then you have to encapsulate those arrays under VPLEX. So if you have a plan to deploy a Disasater Recovery Plan within a few years, you should start to think about it now. If RecoverPoint is your preferred solution and you have non EMC arrays, purchase VPLEX from the beginning.

Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: In reality we are an EMC DELL partner, and we sell EMC products to our customers. All examples discussed previously in this review were examples implemented for our customers.
ITCS user
Solutions Architect at a tech services company with 51-200 employees
Consultant
I welcome the software only version of the brilliant VPLEX hardware but I find its use may be somewhat limited currently.
It seems so long ago now when I reviewed EMC World 2014. One of the things I wanted to learn more about while I was there was VPLEX/VE. So far, everything I have found out makes me wonder, “Which type of customer it is designed to fit?”. To explain what I am talking about here you need to know the architecture. VPLEX/VE Architectural Features Uses vApps and runs on ESXi. Requires 4 vDirectors per site and each is statically bound to an ESXi Host. Has a virtual management server per site that can reside on any of the ESXi hosts. Has optional cluster witness feature and for ideal circumstances this needs a third site. VPLEX/VE will only operate between 2 sites synchronously (VPLEX Metro). 2x WAN links are preferred with latency up to 10ms roundtrip between replicated sites and up…

It seems so long ago now when I reviewed EMC World 2014. One of the things I wanted to learn more about while I was there was VPLEX/VE.
So far, everything I have found out makes me wonder, “Which type of customer it is designed to fit?”. To explain what I am talking about here you need to know the architecture.

VPLEX/VE Architectural Features:

  • Uses vApps and runs on ESXi.
  • Requires 4 vDirectors per site and each is statically bound to an ESXi Host.
  • Has a virtual management server per site that can reside on any of the ESXi hosts.

  • Has optional cluster witness feature and for ideal circumstances this needs a third site.
  • VPLEX/VE will only operate between 2 sites synchronously (VPLEX Metro).
  • 2x WAN links are preferred with latency up to 10ms roundtrip between replicated sites and up to 1000ms between replicated sites and witness site
  • Is iSCSI only (FC is only in the bigger brother full VPLEX).
  • Supports VNXe arrays only.
  • Is limited to 80K IOPS
  • Is managed via the vSphere Web Client
  • Needs distributed Switches for operation [Edit: Correction , Spotted by Leonard McCluskey and supported in EMC documentation. Is supported on vDS or vSS. Thanks!]

The Argument:
Having covered the above points lets extract what this really means. VPLEX/VE is an amazing feat of engineering. I welcome the software only version of the brilliant VPLEX hardware but I find its use may be somewhat limited currently. Perhaps I am not thinking openly enough?
My argument is based on the fact that VPLEX/VE supports VNXe and iSCSI only, so can only appeal to companies who would use this combination of storage array and protocol for production storage. i.e. small businesses.
I find the following areas conflict with the typical profile of small businesses:

  • 4 ESXi Hosts per site are required as a minimum. Due to needing distributing switches these Hosts will require Enterprise Plus licensing. Many small businesses aren’t likely to have as many as 8 hosts and usually license vSphere at lower versions due to costs. [Edit: Based on above correction]
  • The witness should reside on a third site. Many small businesses are lucky to have somewhere suitable to run their Server hardware at 1 site, let alone 3.
  • Having 2 WAN links between Site 1 and Site 2 with less than 10ms round trip time is a big ask for a small business. Even 2 WAN links between Site 1 & 3 and Site 2& 3 with 1000ms round trip time could be challenging in some small businesses. I appreciate however that it will work with 1 WAN link between each Site.
  • Implementing a stretched vSphere cluster doesn’t stop once compute resource and active/active multi-site storage has been provided. It requires networking configuration providing a stretched layer 2 subnet and this is again something a small business is less likely to have.

Many of these requirements are easily met in larger companies. Multiple sites with facilities to run hardware, 4 hosts per site on 2 sites with a third to run the witness, low latency WAN links.

These are all pretty trivial for larger customers but VNXe as a main production storage array running a workload important enough to give it a multi-site stretched vSphere cluster is something I think is unlikely to be present in those customers.

I appreciate that VNXe is frequently used in larger companies (e.g. branch, departmental use or backup targets) but those same companies are much more likely to run the full blown VPLEX with a high-end VNX or VMAX, especially for very important workloads.

VNXe as a production storage array in my experiences are primarily found in small businesses whereas the environment required to support VPLEX/VE is rarely found in companies of that size. There are always exceptions but to put it bluntly, if a company can afford the environment required to run VPLEX/VE, they are likely to use a higher caliber storage array (Not putting VNXe down, it is a great product).

Disagree? Let me know in the comments.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
ITCS user
Solutions Architect with 51-200 employees
Vendor
NetApp MetroCluster vs. EMC VPLEX
MetroCluster was the last major feature of 7-Mode to be ported over to Clustered Data ONTAP (it is included in the recently announced 8.3 version). Metro cluster solutions enable zero RPO and near zero RTO and they are typically a requirement for building a VMware Stretched Cluster (to enable vMotion, HA, DRS and FT over distance). Let’s take a look at how MetroCluster compares with EMC’s flagship continuous availability solution – VPLEX Metro: MetroCluster is standard feature of ONTAP, rather than a separate product, and requires A 2-node cluster at each of the two sites – all nodes in a MetroCluster need to be identical (FAS2500 series not supported) 2 x FC switches per site and 4 x FC ports per controller – dedicated to MetroCluster (for FlexArray the same switches are used…

MetroCluster was the last major feature of 7-Mode to be ported over to Clustered Data ONTAP (it is included in the recently announced 8.3 version). Metro cluster solutions enable zero RPO and near zero RTO and they are typically a requirement for building a VMware Stretched Cluster (to enable vMotion, HA, DRS and FT over distance). Let’s take a look at how MetroCluster compares with EMC’s flagship continuous availability solution – VPLEX Metro:

MetroCluster is standard feature of ONTAP, rather than a separate product, and requires:

  • A 2-node cluster at each of the two sites – all nodes in a MetroCluster need to be identical (FAS2500 series not supported)
  • 2 x FC switches per site and 4 x FC ports per controller – dedicated to MetroCluster (for FlexArray the same switches are used for both MetroCluster and storage attachment)
  • 1 x dual port FCVI card per controller – provides remote NVRAM mirroring
  • 1-4 dedicated ISLs per switch – up to a maximum of 200 km (dark fibre or xWDM)
  • 2 x FibreBridges for each disk stack – connects the SAS disk stack to the FC switches (not required for FlexArray)
  • 2 x Ethernet ports per controller – used to replicate the cluster configuration between the sites
  • Tiebreaker software (optional) – automatically triggers a switchover in the event of a disaster by monitoring the environment from a 3rd location

VPLEX Metro is a storage virtualisation appliance, that can simultaneously read/write to the same data across two data centres, consisting of:

  • GeoSynchrony software – enables N+1 clustering, non-disruptive hardware and software upgrades, and the ability to virtualise storage
  • 1, 2 or 4 Engines per site – each consisting of two high-availability directors
  • 2 x FC switches per site – for connectivity of hosts and storage
  • Inter-cluster connectivity – FC (dark fibre or DWDM) or IP with up to a maximum 10 ms RTT
  • Host and storage connectivity – FC only
  • Witness software – automatically makes storage available on the surviving site in the event of a disaster by monitoring the environment from a 3rd location

The core capability of both solutions is to provide continuous availability (zero downtime) – hosts are not impacted by the loss of local storage as the remote copy seamlessly takes over data-serving operations, but let’s see how they compare in other areas:

Ease of Use

Easy win for NetApp as MetroCluster is a standard feature, essentially it is a “set it and forget it” solution – any changes to the primary storage are automatically mirrored to the secondary.

Licensing

Easy win for NetApp as MetroCluster is a standard feature therefore there is no additional charge for the software (additional connectivity hardware is required), whereas VPLEX requires a licence for all the storage managed as well as additional hardware appliances.

Advanced Storage Features

Easy win for NetApp as MetroCluster supports nearly all of the features of Clustered Data ONTAP (i.e. de-duplication, compression, snapshots, integrated data protection and NAS), whereas VPLEX only provides storage virtualisation and non-disruptive operations (i.e. LUN/array migration).

The only features not supported by a MetroCluster are Infinite Volumes, NSE drive encryption, disk partitioning on the root aggregate and SSD partitioning for Flash Pool.

Connectivity and Scalability

  • Inter-site connectivity – easy win for EMC as VPLEX can replicate over both FC and IP, MetroCluster is limited to FC
  • Host connectivity – easy win for NetApp as MetroCluster supports FC, FCoE, iSCSI and NFS, VPLEX is limited to FC
  • Scalability – easy win for EMC as VPLEX supports eight directors (controllers) per site, MetroCluster is limited to two

Planned and Un-planned Site Failure

With MetroCluster a volume or LUN is online in only one cluster at a time, client/host access is not possible on the remote cluster unless a switchover is performed. Switchover operates at the site level – all aggregates, volumes, LUNs, and SVMs will switchover to the other site. The configuration is active-active, so that each cluster can serve its own separate workloads while providing DR protection for the other.

VPLEX is far more flexible as it is able to “stretch” a LUN across sites and allow hosts at each site to have read/write access to the local version of the LUN. With VPLEX there is no concept of a switchover as LUNs are simultaneously active on both sites.

Both solutions support disaster avoidance (i.e. planned site failure) by manually taking down a cluster at one site such that all storage is active on the remaining site – in the event of an un-planned site failure the disaster recovery process can be automated by the Tiebreaker/Witness software.

External Array Virtualisation

Win for VPLEX as it supports more external array platforms and can utilise data on an existing LUN – NetApp FlexArray can virtualise external arrays, but the data on the LUNs must be destroyed before they can be used.

It is important to note that MetroCluster can be deployed with internal disks only, with external disks only or a combination of the two – VPLEX does not support internal disks.

VMware Metro Storage Cluster (vMSC) support

Both MetroCluster* and VPLEX have full support for vMSC and therefore will enable vMotion, HA, FT and DRS between data centres.

One significant advantage of VPLEX is that it does not require the hosts to be configured to access the storage at both sites (cross-cluster connect), VPLEX does support cross-cluster connect and there are some availability advantages to doing it, but it is not mandated. This makes it possible to move Virtual Machines from one site to another and have both the compute and storage resources delivered locally – with MetroCluster the storage is only ever active on one site.

MetroCluster does have more flexible protocol support – FC, FCoE, iSCSI and NFS, VPLEX is limited to FC.

* 8.3 certification pending

So which is the best?

MetroCluster wins with its simplicity, advanced storage features and lower cost, and VPLEX wins with its ability to replicate over IP and to simultaneously access the storage at both sites. Therefore there is no clear winner, it comes down to which matches your requirements and budget the best, but there could be if:

  • NetApp were to add in some key missing features (i.e. replication over IP, volume move across sites, multi-node scalability and simultaneous LUN access)
  • EMC were to integrate VPLEX into their storage platforms and support block and NAS protocols

So there you have it, hopefully a balanced view of the two solutions, and as always comments would be appreciated.

Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: We are Partners with NetApp and EMC.
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