Flash Data Storage: Product Overview

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There is no stopping the trend toward flash in data storage these days. It dominated our Top Ten Storage Trends of 2013, and the market is seeing a continuing wave of new products.

“Hard disk drives have been a performance bottleneck for years, lagging far behind the speed of CPUs and RAM,” said Everett Dolgner, Director of Product Management, Silver Peak. “SSDs and flash-based storage systems change the economics of performance, and the scale of deployments, making it more manageable for business to meet their performance requirements without deploying big iron.”

Although it is almost impossible to keep up with the pace of ongoing product releases, here are some of the recent highlights.

Violin Memory

Violin has released its 6264 all memory array. Delivering 64 TB in a 3U form, the 6264 has the same footprint as previous models but it’s able to hit 750K IOPs. It is said to double the density and performance, and triple the economics of previous models. According to Narayan Venkat, Vice President of Products, Violin, this has been achieved due to an alliance with Toshiba. Using Toshiba’s 19 nm MLC NAND flash chips, Violin cuts out middleman costs that are typically associated with commodity SSD arrays.

“Violin is delivering high-performance and enterprise reliability with commodity consumer-based NAND, and we are striving to put storage on the Moore’s Law curve using flash as the persistent medium,” said Venkat. “By innovating at all layers of the hardware and software stack, it is possible to double performance and capacity economics every 18 months.”


EMC has been championing flash for a couple of years now and it has come up with all sorts of code words to signify its various flash development projects. XtremIO has been one that it has nurtured for a while and it recently released an all-flash array. It is arrayed in 10 TB X-Bricks, which can provide up to one million random IOPS with over 250 TB of effective capacity in one cluster.

To differentiate itself in a crowded flash marketplace, EMC is seeking to combine powerhouse Intel-based processing with software features such as content-based data placement, which keeps the array optimized across SSDs and controllers, while eliminating duplicate data inline.

A dual-stage metadata engine takes care of the garbage collection process, which can reduce performance. On the data protection side, it comes with an algorithm to spot and handle SSD failures, and keeps performance from falling off once the array passes the 60% capacity mark.

“XDP allows EMC customers to utilize 100% of the capacity on XtremIO while maintaining maximum levels of performance,” said By Charles King, an analyst with Pund-IT. “The arrays are supported by company technologies, including EMC VPLEX, EMC PowerPath and EMC Secure Remote Support.”


Fusion-io offers a variety of flash products, including direct, in server acceleration as a high capacity, persistent memory platform to virtualization caching using ioTurbine. It also has a suite of shared storage tools, which are noted below.

The first one is Fusion ioControl, which delivers shared hybrid storage managed by business priorities by leveraging software to combine the performance of flash with the capacity of disk. This is said to be suitable for small to mid-sized companies. In addition, the company has released the ION Data Accelerator all-flash storage, which the company touts as delivering the performance, reliability and flexibility needed in shared environments by switching commodity servers into shared flash appliances.

“These two solutions from Fusion-io help extend the performance benefits of flash to companies in need of shared storage solutions,” said Gary Orenstein, Executive Vice President of Marketing, FusionIO.


PernixData FVP is said to virtualize server side flash to enable scale-out storage performance that is independent of capacity. This is a 100% software solution, which the company claims delivers 10x more application performance while enabling IOPS to grow with demand.

According to Jeff Aaron, Vice President of Marketing, PernixData, no changes are required to VMs, servers or primary storage. Aaron added that increased storage performance across the data center is achieved by clustering more server side flash. Performance can be architected based on specific VMs or application requirements rather than being exclusively tied to data store requirements.

PernixData FVP uses Flash Cluster technology to enable any host to remotely access the flash device(s) on any other host in the cluster. This allows it to support vMotion, DRS, HA, Snapshot, VDP, Site Recovery Manager, Horizon View and vCloud Director. Pricing for FVP is $7500 per physical host, with no limit on the number of VMs. An SMB bundle exists that is $9,999, which includes support for up to 4 hosts (100 VMs total).

“PernixData FVP is the only server side solution to support full read and write (write through / write back) acceleration for maximum performance across all virtual applications,” said Aaron. “Writes are replicated across clustered hosts to ensure complete fault tolerance.”


Tintri VMstore is designed for virtualization and cloud environments. Based on FlashFirst design, VMstore is said to be able to service over 99 percent of all IO from flash with sub-millisecond latencies. It also provides VM-level QoS to guarantee every VM gets the performance it needs without any manual tuning or configuration.

All data management operations – snapshots, clones, and replication – is done at VM level, so administrators can focus on managing application data rather than storage constructs such as RAID groups, LUNs, volumes, etc. Set-up is said to be done in less than ten minutes without the need to provision any datastores as the environment scales from few tens of VMs to 2000 VMs. It also identifies hot spots at the hypervisor, network and storage levels, and protects VMs via policies for capacity, performance and snapshots.

Tintri offers three VMstore models. ReplicateVM, which provides per-VM replication for data protection and disaster recovery, is optional software on all models. Tintri VMstore T620 has 19.4 TB raw/13.5 TB usable storage and supports up to 500 VMs. VMstore T540 has 26.5 TB raw/13.5 TB usable storage and supports up to 1000 VMs. VMstore T650 has 49.3 TB raw/33.5 TB useable and supports up to 2000 VMs.

“You can create hundreds of high performance zero-space VM clones locally or remotely for speeding up VDI deployments and for development/test workloads,” said Saradhi Sreegiriraju, Director, Product Management, Tintri. “VMstore offers affordable data protection and disaster recovery with WAN-efficient, VM level replication reducing bandwidth usage by as much as 95 percent with block-level global deduplication and compression.”

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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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