Navigating the all-flash array storage buying process
A collection of articles that takes you from defining technology needs to purchasing options
All-flash storage arrays offer a variety of benefits to organizations, including TCO advantages from reduced power...
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and cooling and increased performance over hard disk drives. Whether you are looking for an all-flash array to support a few servers, or a monster enterprise-grade cluster that can support thousands of users, the leading all-flash array vendors provide numerous purchasing options to fit each organization's storage needs.
Here, we will examine products from the eight leading all-flash array vendors -- Dell EMC, Hitachi Data Systems Corp., Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), IBM, Kaminario Inc., NetApp Inc., Pure Storage Inc. and Tegile Systems Inc. Note that all of the all-flash array vendors offer compression and deduplication.
These technologies, when combined, can provide up to a 100 times or greater reduction in data. For instance, a system storing 100 virtual machine virtual drives may have more than 95% of the data from each image duplicated in all 100 images, resulting in a nearly 100 times reduction with deduplication.
On the other hand, an encrypted, compressed video file may not benefit from either deduplication or compression. When possible, we have listed the raw capacities of the systems; when those were not available, we noted the claimed effective capacity, which is usually three to five times the raw capacity. Some vendors guarantee the effective capacity.
Controllers or nodes often offer a choice of interfaces, including an eight-port, 10 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) adapter; an eight-port Fibre Channel adapter; or a 16-port 1 GbE board. Many of these systems offer scale-up, by adding storage shelves to a controller or pair of controllers, and scale-out, by adding pairs of controllers plus storage in a cluster.
Some systems may have a hard limit on the number of shelves that can be added to a controller pair or to the number of nodes in a cluster, while others have suggested limits or no set limit. In those cases, the maximum number of nodes and maximum capacities are not available.
Many storage chassis accommodate multiple interface cards, which may have, for example, two 40 GbE ports; four 10 GbE ports; 12 1 GbE ports; or two 32x Fibre Channel ports, four 16x ports, or eight 2/4/8x ports. Thus, the total number of ports available in a single chassis might range from two or four to 128.
Let's take a look at what each of the leading all-flash storage vendors offer.
Dell EMC offers the Isilon, XtremIO, VMAX and Unity lines of all-flash storage. The Dell EMC Isilon F800 is the family's all-flash, scale-out NAS platform. The F800 stores from 96 TB to 924 TB of raw capacity per chassis, with support for the SMB and NFS file protocols. It can scale from one four-node chassis to 144 nodes. Hybrid models are available.
The Dell EMC Unity All-Flash midrange system offers all-flash and hybrid models. The 350F, 450F, 550F and 650F models provide deduplication, compression, snapshots and effective capacities up to 10 petabytes (PBs). The four models support from five to 1,000 SSDs for up to 46 TB per chassis.
Using extensive research into the all-flash array storage market, TechTarget editors focused on vendors that offered distinct AFA storage platforms, as well as several specialist vendors that developed their products from the ground up. Our research included data from TechTarget surveys, as well as reports from other respected research firms, including Gartner.
The Dell EMC XtremIO system can scale from one dual-controller chassis to four chassis with eight controllers, and from 18 to 288 SSDs, with a capacity of up to 2.8 PB. Performance is up to 880,000 IOPS.
The Dell EMC VMAX enterprise-class storage system can scale both up and out. The 250F, 450F and 950F models support up to 6.7 million IOPS, up to 4 PB and up to 150 GBps throughput. Interfaces include up to 192 ports of 10, 25 and 40 GbE, and up to 32 Gbps Fibre Channel. The product line also includes hybrid models.
Hitachi Data Systems
Hitachi Data Systems includes a wide variety of all-flash models, including the VSP F400, F600, F800 and F1500, which are rated at 600,000 to 4.8 million IOPS and 11 GBps to 48 GBps. Capacities range from 280 TB to 40 PB. The all-flash models include inline compression, adaptive data reduction (deduplication), and unified SAN and NAS support. Hybrid systems are available. Interfaces include 8, 16 and 32 Gbps Fibre Channel, 10 GbE iSCSI and 10 GbE NAS.
Hitachi uses an intelligent flash module it refers to as an FMD, which is essentially an SSD with a custom controller that handles read/write tasks, garbage collection compression and other flash-related tasks, without intervention from the storage subsystem. The goal is an SSD that is more efficient than a commodity SSD. Since each FMD is doing its own processing, there is less load on the storage system.
Hewlett Packard Enterprise
The HPE 3PAR StoreServ line includes the StoreServ 8000, 9000 and 20000. These models range from one to eight nodes, with two controllers per node; up to 160 Fibre Channel ports; and 1 GbE or 10 GbE ports, up to 9.6 PB of raw capacity, and up to millions of IOPS.
The HPE StoreVirtual All-Flash 3200 and 4000 series offer capacities from 1.2 TB to more than 1.5 PB, with four or eight ports per enclosure, which can be gigabit or 10 GbE or Fibre Channel, and which can support up to four enclosures in a cluster. The system offers replication, thin provisioning, snapshots and deduplication.
The IBM FlashSystem A9000 and V9000 series offer from 4.8 TB to 60 TB per chassis, with the ability to add up to 20 expansion modules per controller pair or up to eight high-density expansion modules per controller pair, with multiple controllers for scale-out, as well as scale-up. Capacities of up to 32 PB, up to 750,000 IOPS and up to 68 GB per second are specified, with up to 16 Fibre Channel ports and eight 10 GbE ports per controller. Users can create up to six nodes with two controllers per node.
The IBM Storwize V7000F 3U box offers users up to 24 SSDs per box and the ability to administer and present multiple boxes as a single system. Boxes can be bought as needed and easily integrated into the existing infrastructure. Each controller can support up to 20 expansion enclosures and up to 760 drives, and four-node clusters can be created with up to 3,040 drives and up to 32 PB capacity.
The Kaminario K2 is a clustered scale-up, scale-out system that supports four nodes, each with a dual active/active controller and up to 32 expansion shelves; 30 TB to 1 PB per node, for a maximum capacity of 4 PB; up to 1.5 million IOPS; and 25 GBps throughput. Each node offers four Fibre Channel and four 25 GbE ports. The VisionOS system offers a wide array of software for deduplication, compression, thin provisioning, snapshots and replication.
Kaminario's VisionOS offers four modules -- DataShrink for compression, deduplication and thin provisioning; DataProtect for array-based snapshots, replication and encryption; DataManage for management, monitoring and reporting; and DataConnect for integration with VMware vSphere and Log Insight, Microsoft Volume Shadow Copy Service, OpenStack, Flocker and Cisco Unified Computing System through the RESTful API.
NetApp's All-Flash FAS (AFF) models include the A200, A300, A700 and A700s. The 2U NetApp AFF A200 supports up to 8.8 PB per pair of nodes, with up to four pairs, for a maximum capacity of 34.7 PB, eight Fibre Channel ports and eight 10 GbE ports. The A300 supports up to 70 PB per pair of nodes and up to 12 pairs, for a maximum capacity of 285 PB with eight to 24 Fibre Channel ports and up to 28 10 GbE and eight 40 GbE ports. The A700 has a capacity up to 88.1 PB per pair of nodes and up to 12 pairs, for a maximum cluster capacity of 356 PB, with up to 64 Fibre Channel ports and up to 64 10 GbE and 32 40 GbE ports. The AFF A700s can scale to 39 PB per pair of nodes and up to 12 pairs of nodes for a total cluster capacity of up to 155 PB, with up to 16 Fibre Channel ports and 24 10 GbE or 12 40 GbE ports.
The NetApp SolidFire SF-Series scales from 4.8 TB to 9.6 TB in single storage nodes with one controller, with up to 100 nodes in a cluster, for a total capacity of 960 TB. Each node has two 10 GbE ports and 10 SSDs.
The Pure Storage FlashArray//M all-flash system is available in four models, ranging from 30 TB to 1.5 PB. Multiple boxes can be added and administered as a single system.
Pure Storage FlashArray//X is a new all-flash system that uses NVMe, the fastest type of flash. A single //X70 3U array has an effective capacity of 1.1 PB, with latency around a microsecond and very high IOPS and throughput. The system can scale to 15 PB in a rack and offers thin provisioning, deduplication and compression.
Pure Storage FlashBlade supports NFS and object storage. The all-flash array holds 8 TB and 52 TB blades. A fully populated array holds 15 blades and up to 780 TB of raw capacity.
The Tegile IntelliFlash HD portfolio offers four all-flash array models, ranging from 307 TB to 1.8 PB effective capacities in a 5U chassis with dual active/active controllers, with eight or 16 ports that can be 1 GbE, 10 GbE or Fibre Channel. Multiple controllers can be stacked to create larger systems.
The Tegile T Series portfolio offers four all-flash array models with 2U to 5U chassis, ranging from an effective 22 TB minimum in the T4500 to 1.241 PB maximum in the T4800. Tegile offers corresponding hybrid models in addition to the all-flash versions. Each offers Fibre Channel and 1 GbE or 10 GbE modules, as well as SMB and NFS support.
Hopefully, this roundup of products has given you a good feel for the range of AFAs available and how the different configurations of hardware offered by the leading all-flash array vendors can vary. Just about any of the all-flash array vendors profiled here can create a system that will meet your needs, but your selection should be based on the criteria that is most important to your organization.
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