EMC today announced at its annual user conference here a private-cloud appliance that allows synchronous replication between storage arrays up to 100km apart, including the applications and virtual machines associated with them.
The EMC VPLEX appliance supports only block-level data replication across distance, but the company said it is aiming to support file and object-based storage eventually. The device is squarely positioned at providing data migration for automated storage provisioning, disaster recovery and business continuity because of its ability to create active remote data centers, allowing users to automatically fail over from one data center to another.
"This is a fundamentally game-changing technology on how storage can be federated," EMC chief executive Joe Tucci said during a keynote speech. "Obviously, this is far more green than the old way of running a data center."
Tucci said the company's vision is all about the private and public cloud where, like virtualization in data centers and within storage arrays, a layer of abstraction will be created so that where data resides in a physical location will not be visible to the applications using it.
Tucci described EMC's vision as a "federation of resources," where storage capacity and application workloads can dynamically move between data centers.
The VPLEX comes in two versions: the VPLEX Local, a single 2U (3.5-in high) appliance for replication within a single data center between EMC arrays and the VPLEX Metro, which allows two of the boxes synchronous connectivity up to 100km.The 100km distance limit is due more to application limitations than the arrays' physical capability to replicate data, according to Brian Gallagher, president of EMC's Symmetrix and Virtualization Product Group. For example, it takes about 5 milliseconds for data to travel between two data centers that are 100km apart and connected by fiber optic cables.
"Our vision is really to go away from having discrete data centers," Gallagher said "This has never been done in the past. It allows for access over distance. [Administrators] can move data and access it across data centers."
Gallagher said the VPLEX allows administrators to balance workloads over 100km distances and to automatically fail over between data centers to avoid disasters.
"If there's a hurricane in one part of the world, you can teleport applications and data to another part of the world," Gallagher said.
According to Gallagher, a storage administrator who has excess storage capacity at one data center with a VPLEX Metro appliance can link into another data center and utilize that capacity. For example, an EMC Clariion array with additional capacity in one data center can be accessed by another Clariion array in another data center up to 100km away as primary storage for an application server.
Gallagher said the VPLEX appliance can also leverage management applications on EMC storage arrays. For example, a VPLEX appliance could use EMC's fully automated storage tiering (FAST) technology, which identifies data sets at the volume level to be automatically moved between storage tiers.
The VPLEX Metro has been qualified for use with VMware Vmotion for migration of virtual machines between VMware vSphere clusters for Microsoft , SAP and Oracle applications. The appliance also supports Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V and Live Migration, allowing it to migrate those virtual machines, as well.
Eventually, Tucci said, EMC's cloud technology will allow administrators to manage all their storage, regardless of the data center in which it resides, with the same management software and provision capacity to business groups, offering them whatever level of storage performance they need for a given application.
Each VPLEX appliance comes with one to four controller boards with two quad-core processors. Each controller has 64GB of cache and 32 8Gbit/sec. Fibre Channel ports.
Two VPLEX Metro appliances can be clustered to support up to 16,000 virtual data volumes, the company said. The appliance also supports Oracle VM 2.2, Oracle EnterpriseLinux , Red Hat Linux and Windows and EMC's PowerPath, which allows automatic load balancing and network path failover.
Gallagher said EMC is in talks with other storage companies to allow their boxes to replicate data between data centers through shared APIs, as well. "We've tested hundreds of SAN-server combinations," he said. But EMC's strategy also includes trying to establish standardized specifications, much like the Storage Management Initiative Specification (SMI-S), which allows storage management applications to communicate and manage multivendor storage devices.
While EMC's VPLEX comes as an appliance, the company said it will eventually embed the application's asynchronous data replication capabilities in all of its storage product lines.
EMC plans two more versions of VPLEX next year: VPLEX Geo, which will allow synchronous data replication between data centers anywhere in the world, and VPLEX Global, which will allow multiple data centers within a broader region to be seen by applications as a single, virtual data center.
"You can envision many smaller data centers linking together to form one large data center," Gallagher said. "Now you can envision doing things like moving thousands of virtual machines across thousands of miles."
Pricing for the VPLEX Local starts at $77,000. EMC is also offering a SaaS model, which starts at $26,000.
Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld . Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is email@example.com .
Read more about storage in Computerworld's Storage Knowledge Center.