Affordable Flash Storage Buying Guide

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There is no question about the performance advantage of flash storage. However, cost has kept it from being widely used in the data center, except for a few high-end applications. But with prices dropping below $10/GB, solid state drives (SSDs) and flash arrays are challenging hard disk (HDD) as the technology of choice for Tier One storage.

“The catalyst behind the adoption of flash storage is its massively higher performance compared to spinning disks, which enables enterprises do more with less, resulting in a lower cost per IOPS,” says Shridar Subramanian, Vice President Marketing at Virident. “This is especially true for I/O intense applications like Oracle, MySQL and Microsoft SQL Server databases and virtualized environments.”

Here are five new flash and SSD storage products that provide high IOPS at an affordable price.


BiTMICRO maxIO SSDs and SSAs (solid state accelerators) are available as PCIe plug-in cards or as 3.5 SAS drives. The maxIO is designed for data-intensive operations. Providing low latency and high throughput, maxIO PCIe is BiTMICRO’s enterprise-class SSD. It features the Talino architecture, which integrates its quad-core Talino Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC), delivering 400,000 random 4KB IOPS on a single controller. It is available in capacities ranging from a couple hundred GBs to more than 4TBs.

“MaxIO PCIe is ideal for random read- or write-intensive applications,” says Zophar Sante, VP of Marketing and Sales, BiTMICRO. “Virtualization, transaction processing, databases, streaming content and collaboration suites will all benefit from the performance improvement offered by the maxIO solid state product family.”

He says that due to its low price, MaxIO can be used to replace SAS hard drives or aging SSD drives, increasing their performance by up to 60x. “Unlike SSD’s using Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) controllers, maxIO uses an ASIC with four embedded processors,” says Sante. “Host memory and host CPU resources are not burdened.”

Fusion ioScale

SSDs are clearly faster than HDDs, but sometimes even SSD is not enough. “SSDs use controllers that introduce latency and failure points as they daisy chain data together in RAID architectures,” says Claire Raymond of Fusion-io. “With the cut-through ioMemory architecture, ioScale delivers application data efficiently to the CPU to minimize latency.”

For large data centers, Fusion ioScale provides up to 3.2 TB of low latency ioMemory with a single controller on a half-length PCIe slot. This allows a small form factor server to utilize up to 12.8 TB or more of flash memory, reducing the need for disk drive bays. Servers supporting UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) can boot from Fusion ioScale.

Fusion ioScale is available starting at $3.89/GB, with minimum orders of 100 units.

Nimbus Gemini

The Gemini is Nimbus Data’s 3rd generation all-flash storage array. It uses a Parallel Memory Architecture and distributed caching design, which Nimbus says outperforms commodity server-based SSD rivals by 6x in performance and 8x in data center power, cooling, and rack space efficiency. It has software-configurable Ethernet (1/10/40 GbE), Infiniband (20/40/56 Gb), and Fibre Channel (4/8/16) connectivity.

“Gemini enables data center consolidation through power and rack space reduction, while multiplying application performance through low-latency and data throughput,” says Thomas Isakovich, Nimbus CEO and founder. “This aids in scaling virtualized environments that depend on rapid IO response time and database applications where improvements in latency translate to more transactions per second and greater revenue.”

Gemini supports database, virtualization, and cloud environments with no single-point-of-failure. It is powered by the HALO storage operating system, and accommodates SAN and NAS protocols, data protection, and data reduction. It comes with replication, snapshots, deduplication and encryption without licensing fees.

Virident FlashMAX II

Virident FlashMAX II offers 550 GB to 2.2 TB of flash media in a half-length by half-height format. It can read up to 2.7 GB/s with up to 325K 4k IOPS, and sustain up to 200K 4k IOPS with a 75%/2% read/write mix. Subramanian says that the FlashMAX II is good for applications such as databases and VDI.

“Many enterprises require the flexibility to create indexes during regular business hours to meet business requirements,” he says. “A single query won’t likely bring the system to a screeching halt, but when you multiply this times several hundred or thousand simultaneous queries, HDD systems can’t keep up creating I/O bottlenecks.”

With VDI, one challenge is being able to provide the necessary IOPS during peak usage. “While HDDs can handle average VDI I/O workloads, it can result in storage resources being consumed and leaving little bandwidth for other duties,” says Subramanian. “Where traditional storage really falls short is handling peak I/O workloads that occur during log in boot storms, antivirus software storms, patch storms and log off storms.”

Whiptail Invicta Infinity

Whiptail is expanding its Invicta modular flash storage array for hyperscale applications. The current Invicta array scales up to six nodes and 72 TB. The Invicta Infinity, being released this quarter, raises that level fivefold, to 30 nodes and 360TB of flash storage. Initial testing of an 180 TB, 15 node array produced 2.1 million IOPS with 21.8 GB/s throughput.

The Invicta arrays use Whiptail’s Racerunner OS, which works with all block and file storage protocols including Fibre Channel, Infiniband SRP, iSCSI and NFS. The modules can connect to Fibre Channel (2/4/8 Gb), Infiniband (40 Gb) and Ethernet networks (1/10 Gb).

Drew Robb
Drew Robb
Drew Robb is a contributing writer for Datamation, Enterprise Storage Forum, eSecurity Planet, Channel Insider, and eWeek. He has been reporting on all areas of IT for more than 25 years. He has a degree from the University of Strathclyde UK (USUK), and lives in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.

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