Dell launches PowerStore Prime and hints at PowerScale AI boost

Array range launched at Dell World 2024 in Las Vegas as PowerScale gets OS upgrade and new Intel Xeon CPUs, while Dell CEO hints at acceleration for PowerScale NAS

Dell has upgraded its PowerStore midrange block (and file) access storage arrays with Intel Xeon central processing units (CPUs) to give a claimed performance boost of 66% over the previous version. Meanwhile, one model in the new PowerStore Prime range also offers high-capacity QLC drives for read-heavy workloads.

In addition, Dell CEO Michael Dell hinted at a forthcoming performance acceleration upgrade aimed at artificial intelligence (AI) workloads for the company’s PowerScale scale-out NAS family.

“PowerStore is our array family that has seen the quickest success,” Travis Vigil, the firm’s senior vice-president for portfolio and products, told Computer Weekly’s French sister site, LeMagIT, at Dell World 2024. “Since launch in 2020, we’ve sold into more than 10,000 enterprises. Now, we’re launching this latest evolution, and it’s the most important since the creation of the family, PowerStore Prime.”

PowerStore are mid-range storage arrays, which are the most commonly used in storage area network (SAN) block access mode for SQL databases, to host VM disk images, or as network-attached storage (NAS) filers accessed via network file system (NFS), server message block (SMB) or S3.

There are five models in the PowerStore Prime catalogue, all 2U, with capacity for 24 NVMe drives and 24 Ethernet ports or 16 Fibre Channel ports. Arrays start at the 500T with two Xeon CPUs and 24 cores, and go via the 1200T, 3200T and 5200T to the 9200T with four CPUs and 112 cores.

PowerStore Prime arrays can support up to 96 SSDs with the addition of three 2U shelves that each hold 24 SSDs. The 3200T can come with high-density QLC dives, and in that case is dubbed the 3200Q.

“I can’t say how much more economical the 3200Q will be compared with the 3200T,” said Vigil. “It acts as a more flexible array where you can add SSDs one by one, and not four or eight at a time.”

More usable for the same raw capacity

Default drive type is triple-level cell and with a capacity of 15.36TB. A PowerStore Prime array with a full complement of disks offers 1.47PB of raw capacity. Thanks to the new version – 4.0 – of PowerStore OS, compression is at a ratio of 5:1 and can achieve 5.9PB.

Four active-active pairs of PowerStore Prime array controllers can be clustered to achieve capacity of 23.6PB.

“We could have announced configuration with SSDs of 30TB or 61TB like we have with PowerScale this week,” said Vigil. “However, we think that it’s not very useful here. PowerStore is principally used in block mode for transactional or virtual disk data which come in sizes and quantities smaller than file data stored on NAS. So, it was important to prioritise the price.”

Read more on storage arrays

Dell claims the new generation of Intel Xeon CPUs used are 66% more performant than those in the previous iteration of PowerStore.

Meanwhile, its compression functionality makes more data available on cache, with the same access time from SSD, and so gives PowerStore OS 4.0 a 30% speed advantage over version 3.6. Also claimed is 28% less energy consumed per TB stored. 

Enhanced functionality via cloud and AI

PowerStore 4.0 provides replication to the same cluster or to remote site, configurable in six mouse clicks, and can be set to automatically failover in case of an array outage.

It has a new admin console, PowerStore AIOps, that’s accessible from any device, including tablet and smartphone. It uses generative AI to observe traffic across the arrays, and produce activity reports, security alerts and recommendations.

PowerStore AIOps is derived from the Apex AIOps Infrastructure Observability software-as-a-service console. In this latest version, an admin can ask for diagnostics via a chatbot using natural language.

Project Lightning to speed Dell NAS for AI

During Dell World 2024, CEO Michael Dell hinted at a forthcoming evolution of its PowerScale NAS family aimed at AI storage, dubbed Project Lightning.

“We want to supply our customers with the possibility of using a single platform for training large models, small models, for inference and for RAG,” said Dell. “Project Lightning will bring a new parallel file system to our PowerScale arrays.”

No date was announced by Dell or detailed information given.

“PowerScale is a super-flexible NAS, initially conceived of to share files in the enterprise that needed capacity augmented at will, to host more text, videos, audio, without ever suffering in performance terms,” said Travis Vigil, who provided context to LeMagIT. “But beyond this context, it seems now there is a new use case for these files, in AI.”

According to Vigil, that – at least in part – will take the form of a Dell-developed acceleration module that customers can add to PowerScale arrays and which speeds input/output to feed potentially thousands of graphics processing units.

Read more on Datacentre capacity planning

Data Center
Data Management