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Kaminario K2 array uses 3D TLC NAND flash

Kaminario unveils 5.5 version of its K2 all-flash array with 3D TLC NAND flash, claims of sub-$1 per GB pricing and support for asynchronous replication.

Kaminario today launched a new version of its K2 all-flash array and claimed to slash the cost per GB to less than $1 through the use of 3D TLC NAND flash and data reduction technology.

The vendor claims the average cost per usable GB of flash storage capacity in the new K2 v5.5 is half the price of the prior K2 v5 array introduced in May 2014.

Kaminario CEO Dani Golan said the sub-$1 per usable GB price "is not a marketing stunt." He said it assumes a data reduction ratio of about 4.5 to 1 using the array’s always-on, built-in inline deduplication and compression technology. The company guarantees a minimum of 3-to-1 data reduction, but Golan claimed customers in the field have seen an average of close to 6-to-1 data reduction.

"We were conservative. If you take our average [price], it’s well below $1 per gig," Golan said. "We’re not trying to market something aggressively which in reality is not true, or true in very niche cases."

With heavy database transaction workloads, customers can expect a reduction ratio of between 2:1 and 5:1, according to Kaminario CTO Shachar Fienblit.

Denser 3D triple-level cell (TLC) NAND flash technology from Samsung also contributes to the low cost per GB. Golan said the 3D TLC SSDs are "data-center-ready" and suitable for all workloads, even high-transaction databases.

Golan said the K2 system enhances the reliability of 3D TLC NAND in several ways. It reduces the number of writes through RAM-based deduplication and byte-aligned compression. It also uses sophisticated algorithms to conserve writes on a DRAM level, balance the writes across all available SSDs and write in a sequential manner to prevent hot spots.

3D NAND TLC is the future. It is the only way that we are going to continue to be able to ride the NAND cost curve that we’ve gotten comfortable with over the past few years.
Howard MarksChief Scientist,

"What we see in reality in heavy, heavy testing is that we can save between five to 10 times the writes," Golan said. "So, effectively an SSD that has a spec of one random read a day for the whole capacity for five years, we’re converting it to a much higher endurance of five to 10 writes per day. Through system-level manipulation, we’re helping the SSDs."

Golan noted that Kaminario guarantees the 3D TLC NAND drives for seven years "no matter what," even though the manufacturer guarantees them for only five years.

"They can use 3D TLC because they treat their NAND gently," said Howard Marks, founder and chief scientist at "3D NAND TLC is the future. It is the only way that we are going to continue to be able to ride the NAND cost curve that we’ve gotten comfortable with over the past few years. We can’t make cells smaller anymore. We’ve got to go vertical."

Kaminario is the second vendor to launch an all-flash array with 3D TLC NAND. Dell is also making them available in its SCv2000, SC4020 and SC8000 arrays. Dell claims it can hit $1.66 per GB before deduplication for its 3D TLC NAND systems.

Kaminario is also adding a Perpetual Array program to allow customers to mix and match different generations of the company’s controllers and SSDs within the same v5.5 system to eliminate the need for painful forklift upgrades. Analysts likened the program to Pure Storage’s Evergreen Storage.

Kaminario's new v5.5 array offers customers the option of 1.92 TB 3D TLC SATA SSDs, 960 GB 3D multilevel cell (MLC) SATA SSDs and 480 GB 3D MLC SATA SSDs. A system with one K-Block has a maximum usable capacity of 360 TB. One with two K-Blocks can scale to 720 TB, and a system with four K-Block can reach 1.44 PB.

A K-Block is the building block of the K2 all-flash array and includes two nodes (each with a 1U controller), a base 2U SSD shelf with 24 hot-swappable SSDs, and an expansion 2U SSD shelf.

One key new software feature in K2 v5.5 is native array-based asynchronous replication, based on the product’s snapshot capabilities, for use at primary and disaster recovery sites. Like all software, replication is included with the K2 array at no extra charge. Synchronous replication is on Kaminario’s roadmap for the first half of 2016.

K2 v5.5 is due for general availability in the third quarter. Existing K2 customers can add new v5.5 features through non-disruptive upgrades, according to Kaminario. The starting street price of an entry-level K2 v5.5 array with 22 TB of 3D MLC NAND SSDs is $70,000.

 "The $1 per GB magic number is going to get people's attention and break through to the people who just thought they couldn’t afford an all-flash array and get them looking at it," Marks predicted.

However, Kaminario will have to prove the $1 per GB number is real through its data reduction performance.

"They still have to convince some skeptics that the 4:1 compaction is a real number because the raw cost of flash will still be higher than spinning media," said Jeff Kato, a senior storage analyst at Taneja Group, Inc. via an email. "They have mitigated that some since they guarantee 3:1 compaction and are generally seeing a 6:1 with field data."

Mark Peters, a senior analyst at Milford, Massachusetts-based Enterprise Strategy Group, predicted some customers will see the sub-$1 per usable GB cost, and some won’t. "By definition, these are averages. As a sensible IT user, you need to get this in the contract in case you don’t," he said.

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