8 Hot Solid State Storage Products

Friday May 26th 2017 by Drew Robb
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Dell EMC, Toshiba, Seagate and Micron are coming out with new flash storage arrays that could interest enterprise customers.

So many new solid state drive (SSD) and flash storage products are hitting the market that it can be hard to keep up. This article provides an overview of a few of the recent ones. We feature products and breakthroughs from the likes of Dell EMC, Toshiba, Seagate and Micron Technologies.

These products, by and large, emphasize the growing trend of all-flash everywhere.

“The biggest trend in storage is all-flash,” said Jeremy Burton, CMO of Dell EMC. “The transition to all-flash is now part of the mainstream.”

That said, there is still plenty of room in the solid state storage marketplace for hybrid tools. Hence some of those listed below are all-flash, while others represent a mix of SSD and hard disk drives (HDDs).

Dell EMC VMAX 950F All-Flash Array

VMAX arrays are classed as Dell EMC’s high-end storage systems. The VMAX 950F all-flash array is said to be 68 percent faster, have a 30 percent better response time (6.7M IOPS, 350 microsecond response time), and have a 25 percent smaller footprint for the same performance compared to the previous generation. It leverages the latest Intel CPUs along with a variety of software enhancements. Availability is said to be 99.9999 percent.

It can run open systems, mainframe, IBM i and file workloads on a single platform. Data services include Symmetrix Remote Data Facility, Data At-Rest Encryption, non-disruptive migration and inline compression. Dell EMC touts this system as being ideal for consolidating mission-critical applications that can never go down, such as core banking, credit card processing, electronic billing or hospital record systems. It scales from 7 TB to 138 TB, and it is said to have one third the price per GB compared to the previous generation.

“As our top-of-the-line flash product, the VMAX 950F all-flash array offers the lowest latency possible on block storage,” said Varun Chhabra, senior director, product marketing, Dell EMC Storage. “It will be generally available in June.”

XtremIO X2

EMC acquired XtremeIO a few years ago and continues to invest in the platform. Chhabra characterizes X2 as being designed for specific use cases that would benefit from deduplication and integrated copy data management (iCDM), such as large-scale snapshots and virtual desktop infrastructure. As such, it comes with three times higher capacity, 25 percent better storage efficiency and 80 percent better response times compared to the previous generation. This all-flash product has always-on inline data services offering 25 percent higher data reduction to support two times more copies per cluster.

In terms of capacity, Chhabra said XtremeIo X2 provides three times the capacity per X-Brick. It can scale from 7 TB to 138 TB per X-Brick, scaling out to eight X-Bricks. That adds up to 5.5 PB of effective capacity and a density of more than 100 TB effective capacity per rack unit.

Dell EMC Unity

Dell EMC classifies Unity as its midrange all-flash platform. Its latest Unity models have been beefed up in all respects. They feature up to four times larger file system capacity, an eight times increase in density and boast sub-10-minute deployment. The four new models are the Dell EMC Unity 350F, 450F, 550F and 650F. They have integrated support for block and file data, inline file compression, iCDM with snapshot mobility, simpler RAID protection and support for external encryption key management. Chhabra added that Unity can provide up to 500 TB of effective storage capacity in an 80-drive, 3U footprint.

“As the name suggests, Unity works well as a platform for unified block and file storage,” said Chhabra.

SC Series

Filling out the Dell EMC midrange is the SC5020 hybrid storage array. SC technology came from the Dell side via its earlier acquisition of Compellent. Its new SC array offers up to 45 percent more IOPS, two tims greater capacity and a low price per GB.

“The market is all about dollars per GB,” said Burton.</>

Designed for block workloads, it succeeds the SC4020 array with more power, a greater ability to scale, 45 percent more IOPS, a capacity of up to 2 PB, and three times the bandwidth in a 3U format. It has 30 internal drive bays which can be used for a mix of SSDs and HDDs. Dual controllers, and Fibre Channel FC, iSCSI and direct-attach SAS connectivity options are also thrown in. Software features include data progression, deduplication and compression.

“SC is a good midrange platform if you are dealing mainly with block storage and your environment doesn’t require all flash,” said Chhabra.

Isilon Scale-out NAS

EMC acquired Isilon almost seven years ago. But such is the strength of the underlying technology that the Isilon name persists to this day. With Dell now in the mix, Isilon continues to receive investment as the company’s scale-out NAS platform. Based on its Infinity architecture, the new line of arrays can either come in all-flash, hybrid or archive configurations. All focus on demanding file applications such as media and entertainment, life sciences and financial services.

“Infinity brings new levels of performance and scalability to the Isilon platform, delivering up to six times the IOPS, eleven times the throughput, and two times the capacity of the previous generation,” said Chhabra. “It is designed for unstructured data.”

A modular design enables users to add performance or capacity independently. Its density has also been increased and the Isilon OneFS operating system remains an integral part of the platform. The company claims it has a price per GB of less than 10 cents.

Micron SolidScale

A problem with Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe) SSDs is that they use less than 50 percent of NVMe’s IOPS and capacity. The Micron SolidScale platform is an attempt to harness more of that potential. It uses NVMe over Fabric (NVMeoF) as a faster way of connecting to the CPU. This results in low-latency and higher-performance storage.

“With the new Micron SolidScale architecture, capacity is shared across application servers, unlocking capacity," said Darren Thomas, vice president, storage business unit, Micron Technology.

By coupling flash storage with PCIe NVMe with NVMeoF, this scale-out storage infrastructure provides a centralized single pool of storage with performance akin to local in-server SSDs. It utilizes high-speed RDMA over Converged Ethernet (RoCE) fabric to connect nodes. Initial versions run in Linux environments, but that will be expanded over time. Latency is said to be under 200 ms from end to end, and initial tests of three 2U SolidScale nodes measured almost 11 million IOPS.

"NVMeoF is a much faster way of connecting to the CPU by using the high-speed interconnects of the RoCE fabric, making this architecture ideal for a range of low-latency, robust data needs spanning real time data analytics, high performance computing and hyperscale database use cases," said Laura DuBois, group vice president for IDC's enterprise storage, server and system infrastructure software research.

Toshiba 3D Flash

Flash cells have traditionally been two dimensional. But Toshiba has come out with a prototype for 3D flash with its BiCS Flash, billed as 64-layer 3D flash. This enables much higher densities of flash with lower power consumption and improved endurance. Stacking flash memory chips vertically is the solution.

The Toshiba TLC 3-bit-per-cell 256 Gb (32GB) BiCS flash is said to improve write/erase endurance while boosting write speeds. And the company chose Dell EMC World to do a public demo of an SSD using this technology running on a laptop. Known as the XG-series NVMe PCIe SSD, it had 1 TB of BiCS3 3D TLC NAND. Look for enterprise versions of this product to appear on the market within a few months.

This is good news as the tremendous hype over 3D NAND for the past year or two has hit plenty of stumbling blocks. Early versions suffered various problems and haven’t lived up to expectations. The two previous generations didn’t gain much ground in the SSD market. This one looks like it may expand the enterprise adoption of 3D NAND. But Toshiba is taking a conservative approach with the roll out and volume shipping probably won’t happen until next year.

Seagate Nytro XP6500

The Nytro XP6500 flash accelerator card from Seagate is said to offer very low write latency across all workloads regardless of queue depth. This eight-lane PCIe 3.0 host interface and RAID-on-Chip (ROC)-based controller has an onboard DRAM cache up to 4 GB, as well as supercapacitors for power fail data protection with instant recovery. It has up to 4 TB of raw capacity.

This is the third generation of this product. It utilizes SandForce SSD controllers and the Avago LSISAS3108 PCIe 3.0 x8 ROC, delivering up to 300,000 read IOPS and 100,000 write IOPS, as well as 4.0 GB/s of sequential read throughput and 2.2 GB/s of sequential write throughput. Its DRAM caching technology makes it well suited for high-performance transactional databases, virtualized workloads and other applications where latency is key.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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