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IBM FlashSystem 9100: Product Overview and Insight

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Bottom Line:

IBM is recognized as a leader in flash due to its flash module design and Spectrum software defined storage. However, it cautioned users about a guarantee of only 5 x 9s availability, and the newness of certain features. Yet clearly, FlashSystem 9100 is a major competitor in the market. Potential users are encouraged to test it in their own environments. As its feature set matures, it could take business away from companies like Pure Storage, Dell EMC, HPE, and NetApp, based on its advanced design.

The FlashSystem 9100 is for customers who seek a high performance, cutting-edge solution and have the professional storage personnel to deploy and maintain a system at this level.

Jump to: IBM FlashSystem 9100 Features Table

Company Description:

An American icon, IBM is a Fortune 100 public company with operations worldwide. It is older than just about any company in IT and has a vast portfolio encompassing just about every area of technology. Its storage division contains a full array of software, hardware and virtual options. It is publicly traded. The list of IBM customers is extensive, of course; in the storage sector, customers include ZE Power Group, Follett Higher Education, and the University of Rochester Medical Center.

Product Description:

IBM FlashSystem is built on IBM flash module technology to optimize flash drive components for performance and reliability. FlashSystem 9100 combines flash and Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe) with IBM FlashCore in 2.5-inch SSDs, and IBM Spectrum Virtualize in a 2U storage system. As it is integrated with the software defined capabilities of IBM Spectrum Storage, it supports multi-cloud solutions.

IBM has been recognized as a Leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant (MQ) for Solid State Arrays for five years in a row. “FlashSystem 9100 delivers three times the performance, six times the storage density, 60% less energy consumption, and a 66% smaller rack space footprint than the IBM AFA that it will ultimately replace (the FlashSystem V9000),” said Eric Burgener of IDC.

Features:

Dual-controller enterprise array design targeted for consolidation of block-based workloads.

FlashCore Modules (available in 4.8TB, 9.6TB, or 19.2TB models) or dual-ported, commodity off-the-shelf NVMe SSDs (available in 2TB, 8TB, or 15.3TB models).

Cluster nodes are connected over redundant 10GbE networks, and the arrays support SCSI-based FC and Ethernet as well as NVMe over InfiniBand host connections.

Implementation:

Good. Straightforward for those with a good background in IBM technologies. But those new to IBM will need to learn the intricacies of the various IBM software and hardware packages, which can add time. The company offers extensive implementation support options.

“From testing/evaluation to final implementation our experience has been exceptionally smooth,” said a government CTO.

Technical support:

Good, but depends on level of support contract. IBM offers many extended support and maintenance programs and, as may be expected, some at a premium over the array price.

“Operational support is not as good as we expected, poor communication by the support and limited escalation paths for a high-end product,” said a solutions architect in the retail industry.

Raw Capacity:  

460 TB of raw capacity and up to 2 PB in a 10U cluster. Additional disk expansion cabinets allow it to be scaled to support up to 6 PB or storage capacity in a 42U cabinet, although these disk shelves are connected over 12Gb SAS (HDDs or SSDs) rather than NVMe.

Performance:

  • 2.5 million IOPS, up to 34GBps of bandwidth
  • 10 million IOPS, 136 GBps of bandwidth in a cluster
  • Sub–100 microsecond latencies under load

RAID/Data Protection:

  • 5 X 9s availability guarantee
  • Dual parity RAID and variable stripe hardware RAID
  • Encryption
  • Replication (asynchronous, synchronous, and stretch clusters)
  • Supports storage tiering within the array, to other arrays (including non-IBM ones), and to multiple public clouds
  • Copy Data Management

Storage Saving Features:

  • Inline data reduction (compression and deduplication), and thin provisioning
  • Space-efficient read/write snapshots

Data Management:

  • Non-disruptive data migration
  • Quality of service
  • Data mobility and backup between a variety of cloud providers
  • Spectrum Control predictive analytics
  • Multi-cloud and container capabilities

NVMe:

IBM FlashCore technology is available in a 2.5-inch SSD form factor with NVMe interfaces or standard IBM FlashCore Modules (FCM). 24 FCMs can form the basis of the storage array. You can choose IBM FCMs in multiple capacities, or you can opt for NVMe-enabled flash drives, with the capability to support both drive types simultaneously within the array.

Delivery:

Rack mounted appliance.

Pricing:

No pricing disclosed. In addition to the flash array, the Spectrum storage suite offerings can be purchased individually or through a unified licensing model. IBM also offers a consumption-based utility model.

Features

IBM A9000

Scale-up

Yes

Scale-out

Yes

Capacity

Raw capacity (no deduplication)

6 PB

Effective capacity

32 PB

Networking (Max speed in Gbps)

Fibre Channel

16 Gbs

Ethernet/iSCSI

10GbE

Infiniband

Yes

FCoE

Yes

Performance

IOPs

10M

Throughput

136 Gb/s

Latency

100 microsecs

Storage Saving Features

Deduplication

Yes

Compression

Yes

Thin provisioning

Yes

Management

Data encryption

Yes

Snapshots

Yes

Replication (synch or asynch?)

Both

Availability

Percentage uptime (ex.: 99.999)

5 x 9

Non-disruptive software upgrades

Yes

Non-disruptive hardware upgrades

Yes

Warranty/Support

Base warranty: array

Yes

Base warranty: flash

Yes

Flash replacement if drive/module wears out before warranty expires?

Yes

Gartner Magic Quadrant Rating

Leader

Price

Not disclosed

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