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All-flash vendor E8 Storage bulked up its arrays by qualifying higher capacity nonvolatile memory express drives from HGST. Its next challenge is to convert proofs of concept into paying customers.
The first version of the E8-D24 rack-scale flash appliance, which launched in 2016, had a maximum capacity of 70 TB of usable storage. It packed 24 4 TB dual-port Intel D3700 PCIe-connected capacity nonvolatile memory express (NVMe) SSDs in a 1U chassis.
E8 is now taking orders for a 2U enclosure that embeds 6.4 TB SN200 NVMe cards from HGST, part of Western Digital. That brings its maximum raw storage to 153 TB, and usable capacity to 140 TB.
E8 Storage claims two commercial enterprise customers and an undisclosed number of pilot projects use its arrays.
"We're going after customers who need the highest performance and lowest latency," said Julie Herd, E8 Storage director of technical marketing. "They're choosing today to have server clusters with internal drives to achieve their latency profile."
The Santa Clara, Calif., vendor is among a handful of startups peddling NVMe flash as a faster alternative to SAS and SATA SSDs. The NVMe protocol allows an SSD to connect directly to a CPU via the PCIe link, bypassing traditional host bus adapters.
Julie Herddirector of technical marketing, E8 Storage
Startups Apeiron Data Systems, Excelero and Mangstor also sell branded NVMe flash hardware that incorporates off-the-shelf SSDs. Established vendors Hitachi Data Systems, IBM and Pure Storage offer systems that integrate custom flash modules.
E8 Storage said its NVMe flash array differentiates through its own software-defined storage management features.
"We are not just a bunch of flash without any data services," said E8 CEO Zivan Ori.
Differentiation is key to market success
Before it was acquired by SanDisk Corp. in 2014, Fusion-io was the undisputed leader in PCIe flash storage. Standardization on NVMe and price parity on SSD controller chips are nudging SAS and SATA SSD makers to adapt, said Jim Handy, a director at semiconductor research firm Objective Analysis in Los Gatos, Calif.
"The PCIe SSD business has pretty much wholesale converted over to NVMe," Handy said. "It used to be that every vendor's interface was a little bit different from every other vendor's. Standardization makes it easy to find replacement parts, and it also drives down prices."
Handy said NVMe flash startups will need to differentiate with storage services such as deduplication, compression and data protection to survive.
E8-D24 rack-scale arrays support 100 Gigabit Ethernet and RDMA over Converged Ethernet network interface cards from Mellanox. The disaggregated flash architecture allows compute and storage to scale independently.
A single D24 rack supports 100 servers, with each server having access to all data. The E8 Storage controller provides high availability with dynamic RAID data protection, LUN management and thin provisioning.
E8 Storage's Ori pegs pricing at $2 to $3 per gigabyte of storage. He said E8 plans to support Intel 3D XPoint-based Optane SSDs when they are widely available.
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