It’s important for IT professionals to understand that solid-state technology is used in storage for more than just specialty devices. IBM acquired more than flash storage systems from Texas Memory. The acquisition includes a storage controller designed to turn solid-state drives (SSDs) into the primary storage medium instead of solid-state masquerading as a spinning disk drive. This major acquisition follows the earlier acquisition of XtremIO by EMC.
The main focus of these deals should not be on what existing products IBM and EMC gain from their acquisition targets. They go beyond any shiny toys that Texas Memory and XtremIO bring.
The flash technology is the key. The design of a storage controller that can use solid-state most effectively as primary storage is different than a design based on the use of electro-mechanical based disk drives. Information is accessed in a different way if the controller really uses memory access instead of merely mapping access to software for low-level device protocols. There are also differences in amount of work done by the controllers, such as the number and sizes of queues for operations in progress.
Solid state storage systems can be either all-flash or they can include SSDs for tiering or caching of traditional spinning disk based systems. Some new solid- state technology systems are designed for solid state as primary storage while using spinning disk as less expensive storage for less active data. This may change over time as data reduction capabilities in solid-state increase and flash becomes less expensive.
The most important vendor acquisitions are strategic deals that bring a significant change in product direction, and advance the technology sold to IT customers. For solid state, these deals bring large vendors new designs that maximize the capabilities of flash. The success of these transactions will be measured by how fast these technologies can be effectively brought to market.
Vendors who continue to sell systems designed for spinning disk will be at a disadvantage in an increasingly flash dominated world. That’s why solid-state technology acquisitions and development will set the stage for the next generation of storage systems.
(Randy Kerns is Senior Strategist at Evaluator Group, an IT analyst firm).
The vendor said it would qualify multi-layer cell (MLC) SSDs for its storage arrays this year, and deliver all-Flash Symmetrix enterprise systems by the end of next month and an all-flash VNX unified system this year. EMC also created a flash business unit to develop new technologies and manage partner and supplier relationships.
EMC began shipping single-layer cell (SLC) flash on its Symmetrix systems in 2008, and claims it has shipped nearly 14 PB of flash capacity in storage arrays since last year. The vendor said half of its VMAX and VNX systems orders now include flash capacity.
EMC has not shipped PCIe flash or MLC, which is lower-cost flash than SLC but comes with performance and reliability tradeoffs. EMC rival NetApp ships a PCIe based Flash Cache product in its storage arrays that is the main focus of its SSD strategy.
Storage vendors have increasingly turned to MLC to try and spur SSD sales, which still meet resistance because of the price.
“EMC will enter the server flash business,” EMC president Pat Gelsinger said of Project Lightning during his keynote address today. “We’ll take flash and put in in the server so it acts as server DAS or server cache.”
During a media briefing after his keynote, Gelsinger would not say if EMC is working with Intel on Project Lightning. According to leaked Intel roadmaps, the chip vendor is working on PCIe flash products. “This is an EMC product,” Gelsinger said. “Obviously Intel is one of our most core technology partners, but Intel hasn’t announced its plans yet so it would be premature to announce any partnerships.
Gelsinger also said EMC would integrate its FAST automated tiering software with the PCIe card to optimize data placement.
Gelsinger pointed out Project Lightning is server-side flash, while NetApp’s Flash Cache is in the storage. “We will offer flash in the server as DAS or cache and build a connection to extend flash intelligence into the storage array or server,” he said. “Flash Cache is just storage-side cache, it’s largely what FAST already does.”
EMC rolled out a few other products today:
The Isilon NL-108, the biggest version of its nearline NAS platform, scales to 108 TB with 36 3 TB drives in one system and can scale to 15.5 PB with a 44-node cluster. Isilon also rolled out SmartLock, a policy-based retention software designed to prevent accidental deletion of data.
Atmos 2.0 has improved performance for object ingestion, GeoParity software for moving data across Atmos deployments, GeoDrive software that lets Windows users move data t the cloud and an Amazon S3 interoperability API that lets S3 customers use Atmos.
Three GreenplumHD appliances integrate Hadoop open source software for distributed applications with large data sets. The appliances run Hadoop as a virtual appliance or on a Greenplum hardware appliance.]]>