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Dell OneFS adds security, some performance to PowerScale

Through a software-only update, Dell gives its OneFS operating system more security layers and some added performance to its PowerScale NAS line.

Dell Technologies has updated its file storage OS, bringing added security to the PowerScale portfolio and performance to two of PowerScale's highest-performing storage offerings.

OneFS 9.5, Dell's scale-out NAS operating system, adds several data protection features, including multifactor authentication, new encryption options and a host-based firewall on the appliance to combat ransomware. It also boosts performance for PowerScale's F600 and F900 models by optimizing their caching process.

Overall, the improvements are incremental and make Dell more competitive in the file storage arena, according to Steve McDowell, principal analyst and founding partner at NAND Research.

"There is nothing earth-shattering here, but this is all good news for existing customers," he said.

PowerScale competes with NetApp OnTap, Qumulo and Pure Storage FlashBlade.

More security

In OneFS 9.5, Dell has added new security features that keep the company in line with U.S. federal government requirements and corporate standards.

It introduced a host-based firewall for PowerScale appliances, providing an additional layer of security in the event of a breach.

McDowell said it makes sense to embed a firewall into storage devices, particularly if companies intend to deploy nodes outside the data center for remote offices, for example.

"No matter what happens with your broader corporate firewall, you have very granular firewall controls on the array itself," McDowell said.

Dell also added SAML-based single sign-on capabilities from the command line and web UI, as well as a public key infrastructure (PKI) library to manage public key certificates. The PKI enables the use of multifactor authentication, which relies on login credentials contained on a common access card or personal identity verification card rather than manual entry of a username and password.

OneFS 9.5 now uses Federal Information Processing Standard 140-2, which can support encryption for in-flight and at-rest data. It also supports self-encrypting drives, including the 15 TB and 30 TB quad-level cell (QLC) SSDs.

Dell's incremental approach adds necessary security layers, according to Mitch Lewis, an analyst at Evaluator Group.

"There is no silver bullet, but Dell is ... building cyber resiliency that users need to have," he said.

New performance without new hardware

While cyber-resilience features will be available to the entire PowerScale portfolio, the performance improvements are specific to the highest-performing F-series drives.

Dell focused on the F600 and F900, where performance gains would be most realized due to NVMe, according to Chris Mount, director of product management at Dell. Now, the F600 and F900 bypass the secondary memory cache for NVMe for a more streamlined caching process.

The re-architected caching was completed through software rather than hardware, McDowell said.

"Combined with the performance improvements, Dell can keep a 100-gigabit network fully saturated," he said. "Running at network speed is what you want out of your storage array."

McDowell added that for even more performance, the vendor now supports hardware options in the form of new 15 TB and 30 TB QLC SSDs and 100-gigabit network interface cards.

High-end enterprise and high-performance computing users are always looking to get as much performance as possible, and this update gives them that, according to Lewis.

Finally, Dell also added SupportAssist to OneFS 9.5. Dell's telemetry-driven remote monitoring system uses predictive analytics to identify and alert customers to failing drives or necessary system upgrades, McDowell said.

Adam Armstrong is a TechTarget Editorial news writer covering file and block storage hardware and private clouds. He previously worked at

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