All About XtremIO

October 11, 2016


It’s more than a big USB drive!

By Chris Mills, Senior Storage Engineer, Kovarus

XtremIO is EMC’s all-flash array that has been designed from the ground up to provide users with the full performance potential that flash has to offer; delivering array based capabilities that take advantage of SSD Technology characteristics, based on flash media. Using industry standard components and proprietary intelligent software developed by EMC engineers, performance ranges from hundreds of thousands to millions of IOPS, and latency consistently under one millisecond.

Based on scale-out architecture using X-Bricks (the basic building blocks of an XtremIO array), a cluster can be built and expanded to grow performance and capacity as required. All system operations for a cluster are controlled through a stand-alone Linux based host called the XMS (XtremIO Management Server). The XMS can be physical or virtual and has the ability to manage multiple clusters; should an array become disconnected from the XMS, or the XMS itself is unavailable, the cluster(s) will continue to operate serving up storage to all attached hosts.

XtremIO clusters of two or more X-Bricks use a redundant 40GB/s QDR InfiniBand network for back-end connectivity between storage controllers. This network is fully managed by the array, and provides for high availability, and ultra-low latency. Personnel administering the XtremIO array do not need to have any specialized skills related to InfiniBand networks. The array works like any other block-based storage, and can be integrated into existing SANs utilizing either 8Gb/s Fibre Channel or 10Gb/s iSCSI (SFP+) for host connectivity.

The XIOS (XtremIO Operating System) runs on each of the storage controllers in an X-Brick on top of a lightweight Linux distribution which serves as the base platform. The XIOS is optimized to handle high I/O rates, manage the functional system modules, RDMA over InfiniBand operations, monitoring and memory. The XIOS uses an EMC proprietary process scheduling and handling algorithm designed for the specific requirements of a content aware, low latency, and high performing storage subsystem.

There are a number of key features of XtremIO that make it an efficient and high performing storage array: Thin Provisioning, Inline Data reduction (compression and de-duplication), XtremIO Data Protection utilizing N+2 “self-healing” double-parity data protection, and Data at Rest Encryption (DaRE). The Array is natively thin-provisioned using a small internal block size for all volumes, which allows for capacity to be consumed only when it is actually needed. The array’s content aware architecture allows for blocks to be stored at any location and utilizes metadata to refer to their locations; data is only written when unique blocks are received. Deduplication is automatic as data enters the system; it is performed in real time and not as a post-processing operation. Compression is the final step before data is written to the flash media and happens after the data has been through the deduplication process to ensure that it is applied to only unique data blocks. The compression reduces the total amount of physical data to be written on the SSDs, minimizing the “Write Amplification” of the SSDs and extending the endurance of this flash array.

Additional System features include Snapshots, VAAI integration and Native Replication with RecoverPoint.

XtremIO Snapshots are writeable by default, but can be created as read-only, and can be taken from either the source or any snapshot of the source volume. These snapshots can be used for a number of things including:

  • Recovery from logical data corruption
  • Backup
  • Dev and test
  • Clones
  • Offline data processing

Integration with VMware VAAI allows the VM cloning process to be offloaded to the array, saving the resources of the host and the network. An xcopy command issued from the host, copies the data blocks to the new VM address. Finally, RecoverPoint replication using the native support for XtremIO allows for remote and local replication with the “Snap and Replicate” mechanism for point-in-time recovery, and RecoverPoint with VPLEX utilizing splitter-based local and synchronous remote replication. Splitter-based replication provides for more granularity using journal-based consistency groups.

In closing, this is merely a high-level overview of XtremIO and its capabilities and benefits. For complete information on EMC solutions and third party software with which all flash arrays can interact or integrate, contact us.