How to Manage All Your Flash Options

Today’s data center storage infrastructure has to support an unprecedented number of workloads, ranging from virtualized workloads to artificial intelligence and machine learning. Each of these workloads can benefit from all-flash storage systems and it seems like there is a set of vendors for each workload, each with a differing offering. Managing all these flash options is becoming challenging.

What Are the Flash Options?

Organizations today can choose from among three types of flash options. The first is serial attached SCSI (SAS) based flash systems. While SAS and Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe) flash media have largely reached price parity, the system requirements to drive NVMe flash closer to its full potential make NVMe systems more expensive. While not all environments can take advantage of NVMe performance, many will benefit from its low latency.

The second option, NVMe all-flash, makes sense for legacy and modern databases applications that can benefit from its high performance and low latency. NVMe all-flash is also an excellent fit for organizations that have Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) workloads. The performance of NVMe all-flash is such that it should be able to support all of these various workloads. A concern with NVMe all-flash is that even its ideal workloads can’t benefit from NVMe’s performance all the time. The ability to leverage automatic data placement and mix NVMe flash with SAS flash is an ideal capability.

The third option is high-capacity flash. Systems that still perform well, but designed to store large amounts of data in relatively small footprints can benefit from high capacity flash. High capacity flash systems typically are over-subscribed, meaning there is too much flash for their available IO path. These systems are designed to handle fewer simultaneous accesses than a lower capacity system but those accesses are serviced at full flash performance.

All of these flash options enable IT to address very surgically, each workload’s performance needs but it can also add to the operational complexity of managing these systems and migrating data between them. IT needs to consider carefully if they want to address these workloads with solutions from multiple vendors or look for a single vendor solution.

Western Digital – Addressing All the Flash Use Cases and Maintaining IT Sanity

Western Digital’s IntelliFlash offering has been in the all-flash market almost since the beginning. Recently, Western Digital released new IntelliFlash solutions that address each of the typical workload types while also enhancing its software offering to make managing these systems easier and less expensive.

For VMware and Microsoft environments Western Digital is releasing a new all-flash array that makes the case for SAS based flash more difficult. The new all NVMe 5100 brings NVMe to a much wider audience. The system is able to deliver 400TB of flash capacity, 400k IOPS performance and maintain the same low latency as its other systems in the N series family, 200 microseconds. Further making the case for using NVMe for all environments, Western Digital enables coupling all N series systems with SAS units for capacity expansion.

Western Digital also upgraded its high-density systems. The new HD2160 can now deliver 14PB of capacity in 14 rack units. The HD flash systems are ideal for large storage repositories where access time is critical.

Most interesting in Western Digital’s announcements is its updates to its software. The latest version of the IntelliFlash software, version 3.10, delivers a 2X performance increase on the same hardware, going from 800k IOPS to 1.7 Million IOPS. The release also improves bandwidth to 23 GB/s up from 15.4GB/s and reduces latency from 250 microseconds to 200 microseconds. Storage Switzerland has stated repeatedly that software optimization is the key to enabling NVMe to reach its full potential. It’s good to see Western Digital deliver on it.

Western Digital is also adding new features to IntelliFlash’s already robust storage services capability. The software now supports data migration and can transparently move data from one storage system to another, either as new systems come into the data center or as workload characteristics change so that other flash architectures make more sense.

Also in this release, the software supports S3 Object Storage. Customers can leverage IntelliFlash’s snapshot technology to keep an updated copy of the system on an S3 compatible object store either in the public cloud or an on-premises object store like Western Digital’s ActiveScale. ActiveScale also received an update, which Storage Switzerland will cover in an upcoming briefing note.

StorageSwiss Take

IT professionals need options to address all the various workloads coming at them. All-flash systems provide those options but IT has to be careful that these options do not overwhelm them. Western Digital provides an interesting option, a variety of flash systems all managed by a single storage software operating environment, IntelliFlash, and one that will work with non-flash like Object Storage.

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Twelve years ago George Crump founded Storage Switzerland with one simple goal; to educate IT professionals about all aspects of data center storage. He is the primary contributor to Storage Switzerland and is a heavily sought after public speaker. With over 25 years of experience designing storage solutions for data centers across the US, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS and SAN, Virtualization, Cloud and Enterprise Flash. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland he was CTO at one of the nation's largest storage integrators where he was in charge of technology testing, integration and product selection.

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