The All-Flash Storage Age

By Andrew Shoosmith, Solution Specialist, Data#3

[Reading time: 2.24 min]

EMC has recently revamped their storage family and I am going to use them as an example in this discussion, with the expectation that the majority of storage vendors are going to follow a similar path.

All Flash Arrays are not a new product and have been available in the market for several years. However, the use case / business case for a dedicated all flash array has some challenges in the Australian market;

  • Overkill: the performance available in devices like XtremIO is incredible, offering hundreds of thousands of IOPs and ridiculously low latency, it is rare that applications require such high speed storage.
  • Useable Space: typically an All Flash array is marketed with figures showing the potential logical amount of storage possible utilising deduplication and compression. It is very difficult to provide a firm estimate on the rates achieved prior to the migration of data. To try and alleviate this, vendors have tried to develop tools and provide some sort of guarantee. Unfortunately, I have encountered numerous businesses who were unhappy with their previous integrator / vendor as the array had not lived up to expectation (hence they were now talking to me).
  • Price: a true dedicated All Flash array such as XtremIO is a blue ribbon solution. But, with shrinking budgets, unless there are specific business requirements demanding the array, it can be a hard sell from the IT department to the financial controller.

So now, EMC has broadened their All Flash portfolio to provide alternate entry points for businesses:

  • XtremIO: no change to the product and will continue to be positioned as a platform for high-end workloads with specific use cases for sub-millisecond latencies.
  • VMAX All Flash: VMAX3 is becoming the new mid-range storage as EMC attempts to make VMAX easier to order and implement. The entry point will be a 53TB device and that is useable disk, compression features will be a future release for the VMAX product.
  • VNX All Flash: the trusty VNX platform is becoming the entry level flash array.

There are a number of benefits to both the vendor and the customer by this consolidation to All Flash arrays:

  • Reduced complexity: the happy days I spent identifying hot spots in arrays and carefully designing storage pools / aggregates / RAID arrays are coming to an end. There was a trade-off between capacity and IOPS, and the array had to be balanced with the correct mix of SSD, SAS and SATA to support the workload. Now, the SSD’s are shipping at 3.8TB capacity and this will continue to grow, not only outstripping SAS disks for performance, but now a valid alternative to high capacity SATA. All the disks in the arrays will be the same size and type and typically presented as a single pool of useable space.
  • Reduced maintenance costs: typically a business had to brace themselves for soaring maintenance costs as their array passed the 3 year mark. EMC is providing a lifetime flat price maintenance model, which will mean, what the business paid in year 1, will be the same amount required at year 7. EMC can provide this due to the low failure rate of the flash devices.
  • Reduced procurement costs: the larger range allows the business and technical requirements to be mapped to the appropriate array.

The above, will see flash storage becoming the staple platform in the data centre with spinning disk being initially relegated to backup / archive platforms and ultimately removed all together.

It is a great step for customers and vendors. Unfortunately, only the highly qualified storage admins and presales resources who are now looking after a much smaller and simpler environment, are disappointed.

With the new EMC releases, I foresee the All Flash VMAX becoming extremely popular in the Australian market, as it hits the sweet spot for useable space, performance and price.

Stay tuned – I will be sharing additional info on the VMAX3 450F, as Data#3 starts to deploy these devices in the field.

Tags: Dell EMC Storage