Dell EMC PowerVault ME4024 ReviewJune 30, 2021
The Dell EMC PowerVault ME4024 storage enclosure (SHOP HERE) is an entry-level storage array system designed and optimized for Storage Area Networks, SAN, and DAS, or Direct Attached Storage virtualized environments. Depending on how many units you attach, it can scale up to 4 Petabytes of data stored. It’s also designed for small to medium sized businesses so these nodes just pop into the network, and well… work. The ME4 versions are the next iteration in PowerVault storage replacing or at least updating the MD model line.
When you buy into this system, there is a base configuration to get you started. Dell says it should only take 15 minutes to set up, and another 15 to configure. The Dell PowerVault ME4 lineup is designed to simplify deployment of new hardware and ease management for small to medium sized businesses with a set of standard software appliances that come with the system. Appliances include VMware integrations, distributed RAID, encryption features, and three level tiering, among other things.
There are three basic starter chassis options:
- ME4012 SAN/DAS array, which is a 2U unit with 12x 3.5-inch drive bays
- ME4084, a 5U chassis with 84x 2.5-inch drive bays
- ME4024 unit, we’re looking at today, also at 2U
There are also 3x different expansion options, and we’re sure Dell thought they were being helpful by naming them real similar to the three controller enclosure configurations. Those names are: ME412, ME424 and ME484. That kind of makes it seem like it was a printing error, but no. The expansion units don’t have the controller units and only have I/O modules instead of the controller units. They also look exactly the same as the enclosure controller units. In fact, you can configure the controller unit as an expansion enclosure too. These systems are a fit for a number of different workloads including Virtual Desktop Infrastructures, NoSQL Database applications, Enterprise SAN, Low latency high-performance computing, and more!
PowerVault appliances will fit in seamlessly with your existing Dell PowerEdge products providing easily scalable data storage for your network. Best part of all, it won’t take days or weeks to set up if you need more storage!
The front of the Dell EMC PowerVault ME4024 there is one of Dell’s perforated bezels with the PowerVault logo. Once we remove that, you can see the 24x hot swap drive bays in the 2U chassis. The bays can be outfitted with either hard disk drives or solid-state SSDs for tiered storage.
With three level storage tiering, your hot data is stored on the faster SSD drives, while colder data is stored on higher capacity hard disk drives with a lower cost per gigabyte. Both all-flash and hybrid configurations are supported. This ME4024 StorageVault can be configured for 10Gb iSCSI, 16Gb Fibre Channel, and SAS at 12Gb/s.
Looking at the system from the back you can see two PSUs to either side with 2x hot swappable controllers per ME4024 chassis, at least on this one. Two of them for redundancy. You can just use a single controller in slot A, but you will need a blank in slot B if you go the single controller route.
The ports on the back are all nicely color coded like paint by numbers. The port in the blue area is for daisy-chaining more of these PowerVault units together. The black area has the standard RJ45 port for management. In this case there is no integrated Dell remote access controller (iDRAC) like you would find on the PowerEdge servers. The purple area indicates 10GbE, or 8/16 Gb Fibre channel over SFP+ connections. That’s where your network may add in some complexity with routers and switches for the various servers you may attach to the storage part of your network.
To connect to the storage modules, the PowerEdge servers would then have a PowerEdge RAID Controller (PERC) like the H840 to connect to all that glorious storage to the rest of your network.
Just like the PSUs offering 1+1 redundancy, those control units are hot swappable and easily replaced if one fails. The PowerVault system uses ME Storage Manager and an HTML 5 interface so you can access the system remotely from a standard browser. It has an intuitive user interface where you can set up the various options like the host port mode. You can set the port connection mode for each Fiber Channel port for switched or direct attached servers. Using the ME Storage Manager, the system can be set up for all-fibre channel, iSCSI or a combination of the two for a hybrid connection. There is a lot more functionality with ME Storage Manager, but this is a hardware overview. We sell hardware not abstract constructs!
The controllers have a very basic dual 2-core Xeon Broadwell-DE CPU, with 8GB memory, and no PCIe lanes. There’s no BOSS, IDSDCM, PERC or battery pack to power your memory while your system dies. The controllers are tamper proof and do the job of connecting your network to the focus of the PowerVault system, which is storage. So, you don’t pay separately for the CPUs, nor the memory, and no additional PCIe cards. The controller supports 12Gb SAS connections for performance. SAS drives have dual port connections and the SATA bus only supports a single port connection. The controller acts like an HD controller, that connects directly to the backplane or midplane of the system drives. Just like the PSUs connect directly to the storage backplane to provide power for those drives and the controller modules.
Optional expansion enclosures let you scale up, but the ME424 and ME412 can only be used with the ME4024 and ME4012 respectively. The ME484 can be used with any ME4 base array. All offer 12Gig SAS backend connectivity.
This is a very minimalistic system and like minimalistic art, your storage has been reduced to the most basic of components. In this case, we’re thinking maybe Kandinsky, especially with that color-coded back panel, but his later works. Definitely not Mark Rothko. If you need to scale your data storage quickly, fairly inexpensively, and without introducing complexity, then the Dell PowerVault system fits the bill. We were going to open one of those controller units, but a little sticker held me back. Something about voiding the warranty. So much for an educational voyage of discovery.