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Dell PowerFlex hits 4.5, Apex Block Storage hits Azure

Dell's software-defined storage offering, PowerFlex, gets an update that provides better infrastructure monitoring, more file services and a new Apex Block Storage option.

Dell is giving PowerFlex users easier management and monitoring of their storage that extends to its cloud block storage offering newly available in Microsoft Azure.

Dell's 4.5 update to its software-defined storage offering, PowerFlex, includes tighter integration with CloudIQ, the vendor's AIOps tool to monitor and automate cloud and on-premises infrastructure. The tighter integration applies to Dell's Apex Block Storage, now available in Azure. PowerFlex 4.5 also updates file storage with a single global namespace, unified storage pool management and increased scalability. The update is available now.

Software-defined storage, which abstracts the storage software from specific hardware making it more portable, is one of three storage areas that has the greatest growth forecast, according to Dave Pearson, an analyst at IDC. As customers continue to expand beyond on-premises storage methods, they will have to consider more than legacy storage infrastructure.

"Software-defined principles are key to uncoupling storage resources from actual hardware, enabling the movement of data and workloads that is so important in a hybrid-multicloud world," Pearson said.

Upping PowerFlex's IQ

CloudIQ, which was unveiled in 2016, provides visibility, monitoring and real-time license management of Dell infrastructure including storage. In this update, Dell is adding a unified view of health, capacity and performance as well as tighter integration with PowerFlex and Apex Block Storage.

The growth of apps and data means the growth of management complexity, Pearson said. Managing apps and data on premises and in multiple clouds is the biggest hurdle to digital transformation.

Software-defined principles are key to uncoupling storage resources from actual hardware, enabling the movement of data and workloads that is so important in a hybrid-multicloud world.
Dave PearsonAnalyst, IDC

"Every step forward in terms of management and operational efficiency is a huge benefit to end users," Pearson said.

PowerFlex goes back more than a decade, starting as ScaleIO before EMC acquired it in 2013. In 2015, Dell acquired EMC for $67 billion. Now, it appears Dell is focusing more on PowerFlex's value -- and to good results, according to Dave Raffo, an analyst at Futurum Group.

"PowerFlex adoption has gone up eight straight quarters and doubled the last quarter from the previous year," he said.

This focus in part can be attributed to Dell looking for an HCI-like product outside of VxRail that relies on VMware, which Dell created out of its EMC deal in 2021, Raffo said. While PowerFlex isn't HCI, it provides some key HCI characteristics, such as its management and ease of use, with the ability to scale up as well as out.

Filing down PowerFlex

Dell also added more file storage features to PowerFlex in its 4.5 update, including a 400% increase of file scalability to NAS servers and up to 22 times more file snapshots for better data protection, according to the vendor.

Unstructured data, such as file, makes up about 80% of data growth in the enterprise, Pearson said. Dell is essentially quadrupling the number of NAS servers and file systems within a PowerFlex file services cluster.

"Scalability in NAS environments has been a pain point for end users," he said.

Expanding block to more clouds

While PowerStore is Dell's main block storage offering, PowerFlex brings Apex Block Storage to public clouds, starting with AWS in May. Now Dell is adding Azure to its lineup, which includes the updates it made to CloudIQ.

Additional options lead to additional opportunities for Dell and its customers, according to Pearson. By making Apex for Block Storage available in both AWS and Azure, Dell can support a customer's multi-cloud strategy at a competitive cost.

"Dell is indicating that they can achieve 82% cost savings over native Azure storage," Pearson said.

NetApp has already established first-party relationships with AWS, Azure and Google Cloud. Now other storage vendors, including Dell, are looking to follow suit, Raffo said. Customers want the same management experience regardless of where their data is.

"Whether it's PowerFlex software running on a Dell server in your data center, or if it's running in Azure, from a management standpoint, it's the same thing," he 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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