IBM’s Strategic Initiatives Gain New All-Flash Storage

Flash storage must be the latest rage among enterprise storage vendors.  Last week IBM introduced three new all-flash storage arrays, driving down latency and price/gigabyte to unheard of levels (minimum latency of 250μs, all-flash storage as low as $1.50 per gigabyte). Earlier this week EMC announced new all-flash arrays for its Unity series at prices under $18,000 (under $10,000 for hybrid arrays.) Flash storage has long beaten hard disk in terms of cost per IOPS, but now it is rivaling hard disk in terms of cost/gigabyte.

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IBM A9000 All-Flash Array

OK, it looks a little—uh—boxy to say the least. But the new FlashSystem A9000 is packed with storage goodies. It comes fully configured, which helps drive down the cost of implementing an all-flash environment. Its sister, the FlashSystem A9000R, brings a grid architecture that provides for easy scaling up to the petabyte range. Both FlashSystems incorporate data reduction features, including pattern removal, deduplication and real-time compression, as well as IBM FlashCore technology to deliver consistent low latency performance. As noted above, they are priced as low as $1.50 per gigabyte.

Driving IBM’s latest interest in flash storage are its strategic initiatives, start with cloud computing. Consumers today, notes IBM, are demanding cloud-based applications that are fast, easy, and intelligent. That means minimal latency. Cloud users are demanding sub-second response times, especially when accessing critical data. They also are demanding cloud providers deliver a unique, personalized, and positive customer experience.

To deliver this, IBM is turning to hardware innovation, specifically its MicroLatency technology, to transfers data within the flash array instead of adding another layer of software. MicroLatency technology inserts FPGAs (hardware) that connects and communicates directly with the flash and RAID controllers, eliminating the latency of software and even firmware. Instead, the FlashSystems lets hardware talk directly with hardware.

In addition, IBM is packing the new FlashSystem arrays with features designed to solve cloud requirements such as quality-of-service (QoS) to prevent the noisy neighbor problems with application performance. The new arrays also feature secure multi-tenancy, thresholding, and easy-to-deploy grid scale-out capabilities.

The z System platform is not being ignored in all of this. IBM is including a new DS model, the all-flash IBM DS 8888 optimized for enterprise-class servers: With the all-flash IBM DS8888, customer databases and data-intensive applications are accelerated, resulting in improved business performance and customer satisfaction.

Specifically, the DS888 brings faster decision making and improve customer serviceability, with 4x performance over previous generations and accelerated response time for mission critical applications. The flash storage delivers up to 2.5 million IOPS, the result of having been built on the Power8 processor. It also enables organizations to streamline operations through the performance of an all flash architected solution aligned to provide the deepest integration with System z environments. For instance, IBM promises the most robust FICON connectivity through an architecture optimized for mainframe’s 4K cache segments.

In addition, the DS8888 promises 24×7 access to data and applications through superior business continuity on high demand transaction processing workloads while delivering top operations performance through its all flash architecture. It goes beyond the usual high end 5-nines availability to deliver 6-nines availability, which translates into a mere 2.59 seconds of downtime per month.  Other availability features include flexible replication (IBM FlashCopy, Metro Mirror, Global Mirror, Metro/Global Mirror, Global Copy & Multiple Target Peer-to-Peer Remote Copy). In the early years of flash reliability and availability were a concern.  With the DS8888 and 6-nines availability it isn’t any more.

Finally, it comes with a smorgasbord of security and efficiency goodies, including self-encrypted flash drives, key interoperability management protocol, syslog protocol, an intuitive GUI (IBM has learned a few tricks from Apple), innovative storage software licensing, RESTful and OpenStack APIs to connect workloads between private and public clouds, and thin provisioning for maximum utilization and reclamation of capacity from deleted data.

All-flash solutions announced last week complement IBM’s existing all-flash portfolio including FlashSystem 900 and V9000 that also leverage IBM’s FlashCore technology. IBM’s midrange all-flash solutions consist of all-flash versions of IBM’s Storwize family, which offers the performance needed for real-time insights from business data combined with advanced management functions. IBM’s Big Data all-flash solution delivers high-density multi-petabyte scale and a low-cost flash option ideal for industries such as media, genomics, and life sciences.

DancingDinosaur used to be hired to write papers around the enterprise cost-performance tradeoffs between hard disk and SSD/flash. No matter how expensive flash was at whatever point, the cost per IOPS always favored flash and cost per gigabytes always favored hard disk. That’s no longer an analysis worth even making today.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst and writer. Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing at technologywriter.com and here.

 

 

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