Flash Storage Buying Guide


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Flash storage has really gathered steam over the past couple of years. Some users will do just fine with all-flash arrays while in other cases, a hybrid array consisting of flash/solid state drives (SSDs) and hard disk drives (HDD) would be a better choice. The purpose of this guide is to highlight a few of the many options that are out there.

Nimbus Data

Nimbus Data is said to be the only multi-protocol all-flash array that scales capacity with performance. It boasts 450 deployments to date, including several multi-petabyte all-flash installations.

“Nimbus Data combines patent-pending hardware with multiprotocol software (SAN + NAS), delivering performance, OpEx efficiency and data management capabilities,” said Thomas Isakovich, CEO and founder.

He makes the point that some flash vendors bundle SSDs with generic disk-array servers/enclosures or lack embedded software features. Nimbus, therefore, seeks to differentiate itself via a purpose-built hardware and software strategy to create all-flash systems. It is particularly suited to databases, larger VDI deployments and analytics.

“As all-flash systems tend to cost more than disk per TB, the OpEx savings should be carefully compared amongst vendors by analyzing power consumption per TB, rack space per TB, endurance/reliability ratings and ongoing licensing costs,” said Isakovich. “Customers should coordinate with their data center provider or operations managers to determine the cost of power, space and personnel time, and compare the savings that all-flash vendors can provide.”

Starboard Storage Systems

Starboard is very much in the hybrid storage camp. Its Starboard AC Series (AC2000, AC4000, AC4500) is priced starting at $30,000 for entry-level products and ranges up to $500,000 for high-end models that offer over a half a petabyte of storage. Features include multiprotocol storage (SAN, NAS, FC, iSCSI CIFS and NFS) and dynamic storage pooling that stripes data across all hard disk drives to raise utilization and reduce rebuild time upon a drive failure. The built-in SSD accelerator enables scalable read and write caches to boost performance. All data in the SSD accelerator is compressed inline. In addition, SSD caching is used to arrange it so that most data is served from SSD. The SSD accelerator is also said to reduce HDD usage by up to 80 percent and thereby curtail power consumption.

“As SSD is more expensive per GB, the more workloads that can use a single SSD accelerator the better,” said Lee Johns. vice president of marketing and product management, Starboard Storage Systems. “We thin provision performance and so do not need to overprovision SSD. With Starboard you can scale read cache without mirroring ,and all data in the read cache is compressed, making the SSD read cache resources up to four times to eight times the efficiency of traditional SSD storage.”

Pure Storage

Pure Storage is another all-flash array proponent. Its flagship FlashArray product aims to drive the cost of all-flash storage below the price of performance disk. Combining MLC flash with inline data reduction capabilities (deduplication and compression), it finds itself being used frequently for virtual desktop infrastructure, database management and server consolidation.

The FlashArray FA-400 Series doubles the capacity and performance of the previous generation. Fueled by the new Purity Operating Environment 3.0 software release, it comes with CloudAssist support technology, ZeroSnap accelerated virtual machine (VM) cloning, always on data-at-rest encryption and tighter integration with third-party applications.

“Earlier all-flash storage devices were suitable mainly for tier-one storage applications like accelerating point database applications,” said Matt Kixmoeller, vice president of products at Pure Storage. “We created an all-flash array that breaks the cost barrier to flash, enabling enterprises of all sizes to replace disk in their data centers for a variety of applications.”

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