Gartner recently released a Magic Quadrant (MQ) for all-flash storage arrays. Gartner analyst Valdis Filks said the overall solid-state array (SSA) market grew by 72 percent and generated revenues of $4.6 billion in 2016. This growth is being fueled in part by the purchase price dropping 40 percent or more in the last 18 months.
“Most of the traditional incumbent and system vendors have transitioned their overall storage array businesses to SSAs, where more than 50 percent of new storage array sales are SSAs,” said Filks. “Solid-state arrays have moved to highly integrated application development platforms with agility features such as many different types of data copies, backups, migrations and services for applications within containers.”
Here's in-depth look at the top ten vendors from the MQ.
Pure Storage achieved pride of place among vendors in the Leaders quadrant. This is due to what the analyst firm considers the completeness of its vision as well as its ability to execute. Part of the reason for this is that Pure Storage didn’t exist until 2007. It has only ever built and sold all-flash arrays.
Pure has two primary product families: FlashArray and FlashBlade. Within the FlashArray family are FlashArray//M, optimized for accelerating any business application and structured workloads, and FlashArray//X.
“Our FlashArray family of all-flash block storage arrays are deployed all the way from tier 1, mission-critical environments running business and transactional workloads such as Oracle, SQL and SAP, through to deeply consolidated and automated private and hybrid cloud environments,” said Jason Nadeau, senior director of products, Pure Storage. “In addition, FlashArray//M serves as the storage component for FlashStack, our converged offering with Cisco.”
FlashArray//X is the company’s newest offering and is an all-NVMe array. Existing FlashArray//M systems, meantime, are engineered to be upgradeable to NVMe. The company expects NVMe to follow a similar trajectory to flash itself — an expensive, niche media to start, which is then democratized and becomes industry standard. Overall, FlashArray offers capacity from 5 TB to 512 TB raw (from 15 TB to 1.5 PB effective), a data reduction average of 11:1 (including thin) or 5:1 (not including thin). and pricing starting at $50,000.
FlashBlade, optimized for unstructured data, is finding traction in life sciences/genomics, healthcare, self-driving car simulations, rockets and supercomputing. It tends to be sold as much into research and development teams as traditional IT functions, with an emphasis on emerging workloads like artificial intelligence, analytics and machine learning. It offers capacity from 56 TB to 3.9 PB raw (from 98 TB to 8 PB effective), a data reduction average of 3:1, bandwidth from 7 GB/s up to 75 GB/s, and pricing starting at $150,000.
Dell EMC is another vendor includes in Gartner’s Leaders quadrant. Its flash storage options include deduplication, compression, thin provisioning, snapshots, encryption, replication and other security features.
“With all-flash, you get the speed, agility and scale you need to react to changing markets and customer demands,’ said Jeff Boudreau, president, Dell EMC Storage Division.
The Dell EMC all-flash portfolio was recently refreshed with midrange (Dell EMC Unity, SC Series), high-end (XtremIO and VMAX) and software-defined (ScaleIO) products, as well as unstructured data storage (Isilon).
The new VMAX 950F is said to be 68 percent faster and offer 30 percent better response times (6.7 million IOPS, 350 microseconds response times for OLTP) than the previous generation (VMAX 850F). It is best for the consolidation of mission-critical applications, such as core banking, credit card processing, electronic billing or hospital record systems.
The XtremIO X2 is designed for virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and large-scale snapshot use cases. It is said to have three times higher capacity, 25 percent better storage efficiency on average and 80 percent better response times than first-gen XtremIO. The X2’s rack density has been increased by four times from the previous generation, providing up to 5.5 PB effective capacity and a capacity density of over 100 TB effective per rack unit.
Further, Dell EMC Unity All-Flash storage models feature up to four times larger file system capacity (up to 500 TB), eight times the density and sub-10-minute deployment compared to the previous generation.
“Dell EMC flash storage arrays have been repositioned to move the block-only XtremIO family into more specific niche market segments,” said Filks. “The unified (block and file) VMAX All-Flash and Unity All-Flash families are being strategically positioned for diverse high- to midrange applications, and the Isilon file and object systems now have a full-flash model.”
Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) is yet another Leader, according to Gartner. It has a couple of all-flash product lines. Nimble Predictive AF units are at the high end and can be deployed in multi-petabyte environments. Gartner said that user satisfaction from this technology (acquired from Nimble) is high. In addition, InfoSight Predictive Analytics offers remote monitoring and analytics to identify issues within and outside of the storage infrastructure.
HPE 3PAR StoreServ arrays are aimed at the lower end of the market. Although larger 3PAR units have good capacity and IOPS capabilities, the smallest 3PAR configuration is best suited for environments with modest capacity and IOPS requirements.
Both product lines feature deduplication and compression, as well as scale-up or scale-out options. They can take advantage of NVMe Peripheral Component Interface Express (PCIe) SSDs and storage-class memory without a major upgrade. And with HPE now aggressively rolling out Nimble products, they should gain more traction by taking advantage of a strong HPE channel partner ecosystem.
NetApp is another company that Gartner classifies as a Leader. Its All-Flash FAS A-Series (AFF) is the high-end line. It includes ONTAP data management and comes with 15 TB SSDs and up to 7 million IOPS per cluster with sub-millisecond latency, plus 40 Gigabit Ethernet (40GbE) and 32Gb Fibre Channel connectivity. Inline deduplication and data compaction are also part of the package.
In addition, SolidFire all-flash arrays are said to provide guaranteed performance to thousands of apps on one shared storage system. Users can mix and match nodes to right-size performance and scalability.
Finally, NetApp EF-Series all-flash arrays run on the SANtricity software platform, which is aimed at environments with extreme demands for latency-sensitive workloads. EF-Series products include automated path failover, online administration, data protection, proactive monitoring and repair, nondisruptive upgrades and diagnostic capabilities.
IBM has a large collection of solid state arrays, which helped propel the company into Gartner’s Leaders quadrant. IBM SSAs include the A9000, DS8000 series, Storwize series and the V9000. The IBM FlashSystem A9000 series leverages XIV storage system software technology, as well as deduplication and compression. FlashSystem products use IBM's flash module technology to optimize flash drive components for performance and reliability. Software-defined storage features from IBM Spectrum Storage offer additional functions, such as hybrid cloud support. “IBM has a broad portfolio spanning high-performance customer needs, including mainframe environments as well as entry-level and midrange products,” said Filks. “IBM Spectrum Storage software suite allows customers the flexibility to manage IBM and/or external storage solutions, and hybrid cloud support.”
IBM’s family of all flash arrays are available to enterprises and small companies. They range from ultra-low latency (FlashSystem 900, FlashSystem V9000, FlashSystem A9000, FlashSystem A9000R, Storwize V7000) to more cost-effective models such as the Storwize V5030F and Storwize V7000F.
“With the maturity level that flash has reached in the past 24 months, flash can be deployed in any size company for their primary storage needs,” said Eric Herzog, vice president of worldwide storage channels, IBM. “Spectrum Virtualize software allows a client to improve hybrid cloud and storage deployment flexibility, enjoy consistent management for on-premises and cloud storage regardless of storage type, replicate from on-premises storage to cloud storage.”
IBM Spectrum Virtualize software supports almost 400 different storage systems. Further features include storage pooling, automated allocation with thin provisioning, automated tiering, software encryption, local and remote replication, support for moving snapshots from existing storage to public cloud providers, data mobility between data centers and support for virtual environments.