Buying Guide to All Flash Arrays: Visionaries

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In an earlier Flash Buying Guide, we covered the top vendors in flash data storage, according to the last Gartner Magic Quadrant (MQ) for All Flash Arrays (AFAs). In part two, we take up some of the other flash array candidates, including several that Gartner categorized as Visionaries in its MQ.


Version 5 of Kaminario’s K2 all-flash data storage array is based on an x86 processor platform and the company’s Scalable Performance and Resilience Architecture (SPEAR). Earlier K2 models offered a scale-out architecture in which both capacity and performance could be increased. The K2 v5 added a scale-up architecture allowing an individual node’s flash storage capacity to be increased with the addition of extra Solid State Drives (SSD)s. Features include deduplication and compression, encryption, non-disruptive upgrades, snapshots, thin provisioning and HealthShield which is cloud-based monitoring. In addition, it is designed to have no single point of failure and dual parity data protection. K2 supports varied and mixed workloads like server virtualization, VDI and database (OLTP, real-time analytics) environments. According to Ritu Jyoti, Chief Product Officer at Kaminario, the average price is $2/GB usable.

“All-flash storage is the future of modern data centers,” said Jyoti. “Our K2 delivers customers the ability to scale-up and scale-out without disruption to workflow.”

American Megatrends

American Megatrends just released the StorTrends 3600i AFA. Starting at $24,999, it includes deduplication and compression software, as well as two types of solid state drives. One is designed for write performance and the other geared toward read performance. The company employs them as a Write Tier and Read Tier within the system.

“By taking advantage of each drives’ potential, users not only experience higher performance, but also longer drive duration which includes a five year endurance guarantee,” said Justin Bagby, Director StorTrends Division, American Megatrends. “With more than 300 possible configurations, each StorTrends 3600i is tailored toward each customer’s environment.”

A free performance analysis tool called StorTrends iDATA Tool is used to analyze the storage landscape and suggest the best configuration for that site. This is done via a report detailing IOPS, Reads vs Writes Ratios, Throughput, Capacity, Memory, CPU usage, Hot Data versus Cold Data, projected capacity growth, and a deduplication ratio estimate of the data set. The analysis allows for placement of the correct size of SSDs within the StorTrends 3600i array.


SolidFire’s latest flash product is the SF9605 node, which features 34.5 TB effective capacity and 50,000 IOPS. The node works interchangeably with the company’s other three node options (SF2405, SF4805, SF9010) to provide the right mix of capacity and performance. SolidFire’s automation feature relieves managers of the headache of balancing performance and capacity and takes care of other load distribution issues.

“SolidFire’s nodes are able to balance performance and capacity simultaneously and independently,” said Jeramiah Dooley, Cloud Architect at SolidFire. “Built from the ground up, it allows users to balance multiple workloads at once, remove flow bottlenecks and protect drives.

Violin Memory

The Violin 7300 Flash Storage Platform (FSP) delivers up to 217 TB of effective capacity in 3 rack units at a data reduction rate of 6:1. It supports mixed and multiple workload environments, and is said to be able to support up to 5,000 persistent virtual desktops per system. This is driven by the company’s Concerto OS 7, which combines Violin’s system-level flash management and control, block-level de-duplication and compression data efficiency engine, as well as data management, protection, and recovery services. Concerto OS 7 is managed, in turn, by the user through Violin Symphony 3, which is said to be able to manage PB of data from one pane of glass.

“Violin’s selectable, block-level inline de-duplication and compression is enabled by default in order to maximize storage efficiency,” said Erik Ottem, Director of Product Marketing, Violin Memory. “This allows users to turn off de-duplication and compression on a per application basis.


SanDisk recently released the InfiniFlash flash appliance, which offers 500 TB of flash storage into 3U of rack space. Performance is said to be one million random-read IOPS. It can be purchased as a basic appliance or bundled with other software such as Ceph (object storage) or ION Accelerator by Fusion-io for high-speed database processing. The cost is said to be less than $2 per GB uncompressed. It comes with the usual data reduction technologies. SanDisk has assembled many of the elements of this appliance via the acquisition of companies such as Pliant, SMART Storage, FlashSoft, Schooner and most notably Fusion-io.

“SanDisk’s InfiniFlash is not really comparable to the flash arrays that are currently sold by vendors that largely focus on the enterprise,” said Jim Handy, an analyst with Objective Analysis. “Instead, InfiniFlash is a product that has been specifically designed for the hyperscale data center.”

Nimbus Data

Nimbus Data Systems Gemini X-series is a scale-out AFA that is aimed at the large enterprise and cloud service provider markets. It features a scale-out all-flash architecture running on its HALO operating system. The company claims is can support a petabyte of redundant all-flash storage capacity in a single namespace in half a rack of space.

“The Gemini X-series all-flash array enables data center administrators to linearly scale both performance and capacity by adding more flash nodes,” said Russ Fellows, Senior Partner at Evaluator Group.


The storage landscape can get pretty confusing. Flash vendor Skyera got acquired by HGST, which is actually a Western Digital (WD) company. But to date, the new owner of this technology isn’t saying much about what it intends to do with it. Gartner named Skyera as a visionary in its last MQ. The last flash product it released before the acquisition was the skyHawk FS all flash array. It offered up to 136 GB of flash in 1U of rack space. The only data currently available is that HGST intends to integrate the Skyera technology into its own flash products.

Stay tuned for another article in this series giving users valuable tips on flash implementation.

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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