All-Flash Array Buying Guide

Posted on March 14, 2016 By Drew Robb

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All flash arrays (AFAs) are almost a dime a dozen these days. From a couple of initial vendors, just about everyone has gotten in on the act.

“The impact of all-flash arrays in the data center and the cloud are unquestionable,” said Eric Burgener, an analyst at IDC. “All-flash arrays now provide greater cost-effectiveness, flexibility, performance, scalability and simplicity.

But the popularity of the AFA means there isn’t enough room to squeeze all of them into this guide. So we will split it into two, covering many but not all of the top vendors and providing an overview of what’s available. Additional articles will cover AFA tips and offer advice on how to move from a disk-based infrastructure to one containing a lot more flash.

So let’s begin by highlighting some of the leading lights in AFAs.

Pure Storage

The Pure Storage FlashArray was given top spot by IDC in a recent AFA MarketScape. IDC was complimentary of Pure for its earlier market entrance, its inline data reduction, ability to perform in-place upgrades across technology generations and customer satisfaction. As well as a flash array, it provides cloud-based management via the Pure1 platform. This makes it possible to manage the AFA from anywhere on a mobile device. The company is planning some major news at its user conference next week. It is likely that some kind of new AFA will be released at that time

EMC

While IDC may give Pure the nicest report card, its market share numbers show EMC clearly in the lead in all-flash storage with 39 percent of the market, more than the next three competitors combined. It is also the market share leader in enterprise storage solutions that include both all-flash and hybrid flash storage arrays. EMC, of course, offers more than one line of flash products. The most recent release is the VMAX AFA.

“The EMC VMAX all flash array is designed for performance up to 4 million IOPS, scale up to 4 PB of usable flash capacity and offers 99.9999 percent availability,” said Stefan Voss, director, technical marketing, EMC. “It is the first-to-market all-flash storage array to natively support block, file, open systems and mainframe.”

Hewlett Packard Enterprise

The Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) 3PAR StoreServ 20850 is a high-performance, scalable all-flash array. Flash-optimized architecture features include the HPE 3PAR Gen5 Thin Express ASIC for silicon-based hardware acceleration, as well as inline deduplication, zero detect and other compaction technologies. HP said it can reduce capacity by up to 75 percent without compromising performance.

Scaling out to eight controller nodes and built to supply 6-nines uptime, the 3PAR StoreServ 20850 is good for consolidating multiple racks of legacy, high-end storage. The all-flash system delivers up to 12 PB of usable capacity and over 3.2 million random-read IOPS at sub-millisecond latency. HPE 3PAR 20850 Storage Systems are orderable and shipping immediately with a street price starting at $75,000.

“The system’s scalability, footprint and performance allow enterprises to increase business agility by accelerating their most performance-hungry workloads and mission-critical applications for 23 percent lower price than competing all-flash arrays,” said Vish Mulchand, senior director, product management and marketing, HPE Storage.

IBM FlashSystem

IBM FlashSystem 900 is designed for high performance while the IBM FlashSystem V9000 is for higher volume, more general purpose storage. They both use FlashCore technology, which is said to combine high performance, low latency, reliability and efficiency. FlashCore enables the integration of high-density MLC flash chips to provide the cost advantages of MLC while maintaining system resiliency.

The company uses enhanced multi-level cell (MLC) with built-in IBM MicroLatency to increase system responsiveness. In addition, it comes with variable-stripe RAID and AES-XTS 256 encryption. Data reduction, dynamic tiering, thin provisioning and data copy services are thrown in for good measure.

“IBM FlashSystem V9000 adds the advanced storage services and virtualization capabilities of IBM Spectrum Virtualize to create a complete storage solution for all your active data,” said Levi Norman, director of product marketing, IBM Systems. “It is designed for all active data sets and can function as a feature-rich, software-defined storage layer that virtualizes all managed storage.”

In other words, it acts as the virtualization layer between the host and external storage systems, and is able to manage up to 32 PB of storage from one IBM FlashSystem V9000 array. Volumes can be migrated between external and internal storage. Norman added that IBM FlashSystem V9000 is due for a refresh sometime this year.

NetApp

The NetApp EF560 all-flash array has response times of under one millisecond, is said to speed Oracle and Microsoft SQL Server databases by up to 20X, delivers 99.9999 percent availability and low cost per IOP, and also protects against data loss with NetApp SANtricity software. These claims were recently validated at Western Oregon University (WOU) where a NetApp EF AFA was put through its paces.

The college moved a demanding database supporting high-input/output applications to a NetApp EF array. The result was being able to handle ten times the number of concurrent users in 95 percent less processing time while being able to run business intelligence reports for in 20 seconds instead of six hours. In addition, it reduced back-up time from over an hour to nine minutes

“NetApp flash storage has allowed us to reach a capacity of more than 1,200 concurrent users while providing exceptional system performance campus-wide,’ said Bill Kernan, CIO, Western Oregon University.

Kaminario

The Kaminario K2 is said to reduce the cost per GB (usable) to less than $1. It introduces the deployment of 3D triple level cell (TLC) flash drives plus asynchronous replication, snapshotting and DR capabilities such as VMware Site Recovery Manager integration, a recovery point objective (RPO) of less than a minute and a recovery time objective (RTO) of less than a second./p>

The K2 is built on the x86 processor platform as well as the company’s Scalable Performance and Resilience Architecture (SPEAR). Further features include deduplication, compression, encryption, thin provisioning and cloud-based monitoring. It can also support mixed workloads such as server virtualization, VDI and databases.

Since its release, the company has experienced strong growth. This includes the addition of 65 new channel partners and three times overall expansion in the past year. This includes a 150 percent increase in the number of customers.

No Flash in the Pan

IDC thinks AFAs are going to be the bright spot of the external storage systems segment of the market for some time to come. From annual revenues of $0.4 billion in 2013, they have grown to now account for $2.5 billion. By 2019, that number will soar to $5.6 billion. That puts them just behind disk-only systems at $7 billion, with the hybrid space dominating at $14.5 billion.

“Falling prices on flash media, broader product availability, and increasing end-user knowledge of benefits of flash technology will fuel 29.2 percent five-year compound annual growth rate of this market segment,” said Natalya Yezhkova, an analyst at IDC. “By 2019, all-flash arrays will account for 20.5 percent of end user spending on external storage systems, up from 5.8 percent in 2014.”

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.


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