EMC adds flash drives to Symmetrix DMX systems

By Kevin Komiega

—In an effort to gain an edge in high-performance storage environments, EMC this week announced the integration of flash-based solid-state drives (SSDs)—OEM'd from STEC—into its portfolio of Symmetrix DMX-4 storage systems.

Solid-state flash drives utilize flash memory to store and retrieve data, yielding response times that are faster than the traditional hard-disk drives and require less power to run. STEC's flash drives for the Symmetrix DMX-4 system use single-layer cell (SLC) flash technology combined with controllers to achieve fast read/write performance, high reliability, and data integrity.

According to EMC, the SSDs have been tested and qualified to support workloads of high-end enterprise storage applications. EMC has also added some new features to the Symmetrix DMX-4 operating software to take advantage of the flash storage technology, including the ability to provision, manage, replicate, and move data between flash drives and traditional Fibre Channel and SATA disk drives in the same array.

In a storage array, flash drives can store 1TB of data using 38% less energy than traditional mechanical disk drives because the flash drives contain no mechanical components. EMC's in-house testing shows that it would take 30 15,000rpm Fibre Channel disk drives to deliver the same performance as a single flash drive, which translates into a 98% reduction in power consumption in a transaction-per-second comparison.

Flash storage technology is designed to support applications that need to process massive amounts of information very quickly, such as currency exchange and electronic trading systems, real-time data processing, and mainframe transaction processing.

The addition of SSDs allows for the creation of a solid-state storage tier, dubbed "tier zero," and is supported by the Symmetrix software management suite, enabling administrators to provision all of their storage tiers with advanced management tools, including Dynamic Cache Partitioning, Virtual LUNs, Quality of Service Manager, and now Virtual Provisioning to simplify overall management and application performance.

EMC's new Virtual Provisioning for Symmetrix DMX software speeds up the process of allocating storage capacity across storage tiers in an array, including tier zero using SSDs. EMC's Virtual Provisioning technology offers what is more commonly known as thin provisioning. It enables the Symmetrix DMX system to present an application with more capacity than is physically allocated, delivering capacity allocation while improving overall system utilization.

Also new to the Symmetrix DMX-4 is support for 1TB SATA II disk drives. The DMX-4 now supports flash drives, Fibre Channel drives, and SATA drives, enabling "in-the-box" storage tiering, which allows for consolidation of all application tiers within a single system.

EMC plans to offer flash drives in 73GB and 146GB capacities for the Symmetrix DMX-4 platform beginning later this quarter.

This article was originally published on January 16, 2008