All-flash arrays are quickly becoming the production storage system of choice. Organizations like that all-flash arrays eliminate the need to constantly fine tune the environment to wring out that last little bit of performance. The problem is that flash arrays come in a variety of different price bands, and understanding what and why the vendor is charging what they are is critical to making the right decision.
Understanding Flash Components
First, all-flash arrays, obviously, use flash as their storage medium. While flash drive manufacturers will argue a difference, most IT professionals won’t really have a choice as to which flash drive is in the storage system they select. They are going to get whatever the vendor provides. For the most part the cost of the modules is in line with each other.
Second, to consider an all-flash array data center ready, there are certain features it should have; volume management and snapshots for example. Most will also have deduplication and/or compression to extract maximum capacity from the flash devices and many vendors have added replication for disaster recovery. While the features have reached parity between the various vendors how those features are implemented impact the price of the system.
Other than the price the all-flash array manufacturer pays for the physical hardware and the price that they in turn charge their end-customer for that hardware, the software plays a key role in how much an organization will pay for the system. While the vendor will certainly perceive some value in the software and factor that into the system price, the primary role the software plays in the price equation is in the software’s requirements from the hardware to drive its features.
The more efficient the software is and the more efficient it is at implementing the various features can have a tremendous impact on how powerful the CPUs need to be and how much storage system memory is required. To hide inefficient code vendors will load their storage systems with powerful CPUs and plenty of RAM, which then raises the overall price of the system.
X-IO Technologies’s ISE G4
X-IO has been in the storage industry for over 11 years. It made a name for itself when it introduced high density hard drive based systems with industry leading reliability and a warranty to back it up. Later it developed one of the more intelligent ways to move data between hard disk and flash tiers. While their hybrid systems are still available, X-IO is focused more on their all-flash product line.
The ISE 900 Series of solutions are all-flash storage systems with the full complement of enterprise features like; High Availability, Encryption, REST API, Predictive Analytics, QoS, Thin Provision, Snapshots and Replication. What makes the ISE 900 series really stand out though is how efficiently it delivers deduplication. The ISE 900 uses a more efficient means of tracking metadata than its competitors and as a result only uses 25% of the CPU and DRAM.
The effect of their deduplication and other software efficiencies is that the ISE 900 series is 40% less expensive than comparable systems from other enterprise storage vendors. Combine this cost savings with X-IO’s proven track record of lower maintenance requirements as well as flat maintenance costs and you have a total cost of ownership that puts many other enterprise vendors to shame.
The ISE 900 series is available in two models. The ISE 920 G4 is available with 9.6TB to 242 TB effective (assuming a 5:1 data reduction ratio) and the 960 G4 which starts at the same 9.6TB effective but can scale to 725GB, supporting 60 SSDs in increments of 10.
Most, even mid-range, all-flash arrays will meet the large majority of the performance demands of the typical data center. Nothing faster will do the organization any good. Once they know a particular classification of all-flash array will meet their performance needs the next step is to look at the features they need the reliability of the system and of course price. X-IO with its complete feature set and efficiency that allows them to deliver maximum performance on less expensive hardware strikes a good balance and deserves strong consideration.