Essential Guide

Flash storage: Guide to enterprise all-flash storage arrays

All-flash storage arrays have pitted longtime storage vendors against pesky startups. This guide will help you compare flash storage products and decide if an all-flash array is right for you.

Introduction

All-flash storage arrays may differ on capacity, drive type, networking options and storage-savings features, but the one thing they all do is improve performance.

The 15 flash storage product lines profiled in TechTarget's all-flash array guide claim maximum read IOPS ranging from 200,000 to 9 million, peak read throughput from 2.4 GBps to 46 GBps, and read latencies from 50 microseconds to 1 millisecond.

But performance numbers can be tricky to compare. Vendors use differing configurations, workloads and block sizes to test their products. Plus, their test cases may not even remotely resemble a given customer's actual environment. The aforementioned top figures for IOPS and read throughput apply to one flash storage vendor's maximum 100-node configuration.

Price comparisons are also tough. Prices per gigabyte vary among vendors based on their products' configurations and whether or not they factor in data reduction technologies, such as deduplication and compression. Prices per IOPS are no easier, with differing sets of variables to weigh.

And finding the array with the highest performance or the lowest overall cost may not matter if the system lacks the features that an enterprise wants or needs. Some all-flash storage arrays are rich in capabilities that are typically found in traditional arrays that use hard-disk drives (HDDs). Others leave out such features as inline deduplication and inline compression that might have an impact on performance.

So, in putting together our guide, we collected a wide range of information to help you compare all-flash storage arrays. We asked the vendors to supply details on their product's specifications, flash media, warranty and support in addition to storage-saving and management features, performance and price. We also provide some of the finer-grained details that you won't find on their product pages, such as which storage features they charge an extra fee for and whether they replace flash drives that wear out before the warranty expires.

Whenever possible, we tried to ensure that vendors' responses were consistent to enable comparison. And whenever questions went unanswered, we hounded them.

1For the sake of comparison-

Everything you wanted to know about all-flash arrays in one big chart

TechTarget's all-flash array guide profiles 15 product lines from 13 vendors, large and small. Click the link below to check out our all-flash array comparison chart.

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All-flash array comparison chart

Our all-flash array comparison chart provides an overview of all-flash storage arrays on such criteria as storage architecture, flash type, array capacity, networking technology, warranty and support, and storage-saving and management features. For instance, the chart shows that most products support replication. You will also see that some vendors offer the feature at no charge, while others require a fee or a separate product at an extra cost. Continue Reading

2Product information-

Devil in the details? Snapshot profiles of all-flash array vendors

We profiled 13 vendors of all-flash arrays and spotlighted their products' areas of distinction and deficiency compared to the others.

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Dell flash strategy centers on updated Compellent, EqualLogic arrays

Dell Inc.'s all-flash strategy centers on its Compellent and EqualLogic arrays, which were originally designed for HDDs. All-SSD configurations have technically been available since 2009 with the Compellent and EqualLogic product lines, but major updates in 2013 brought significant enhancements with flash in mind. Continue Reading

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EMC touts performance in scale-out XtremIO, aims VNX-F at price-conscious

EMC Corp. positions its purpose-built XtremIO all-flash array for customers in need of predictable, low-latency performance and scalability. The company's target for the VNX-F is users that prioritize price per gigabyte and price per IOPS. Continue Reading

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HP makes case that all-flash 3PAR StoreServ 7450 is designed for flash

To enhance performance, Hewlett-Packard Co. uses a flash-optimized software layer and CPU and memory In its all-SSD 3PAR StoreServ 7450 that differ from what it uses in the rest of the StoreServ family of products. Continue Reading

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Hitachi boosts all-flash HUS virtual machine with custom drives, optimized software

Hitachi Data Systems built its own flash module drives and engineered flash-specific system software modifications to boost the performance of its Hitachi Unified Storage (HUS) VM array. Continue Reading

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IBM FlashSystem 840 focuses on performance, V840 is more feature-rich

IBM updated its FlashSystem product line this year. The FlashSystem 840 doubled the performance of its predecessor model, and the FlashSystem V840 added support for many of the enterprise features typically found in traditional disk-based storage arrays. Continue Reading

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Kaminario beefs up all-flash array with enterprise storage features

Kaminario Inc. took a significant leap forward with the addition of enterprise storage features, such as thin provisioning, inline deduplication and inline compression, to its K2 v5 all-flash array. Continue Reading

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NetApp offers all-flash EF-Series, FAS systems while prepping new FlashRay

NetApp Inc. sells all-SSD options with its EF-Series and fabric-attached storage (FAS) systems, but the company is designing a new flash array from scratch in hopes of becoming a more serious player in the solid-state market. NetApp's FlashRay is due for general release this year. Continue Reading

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Nimbus Gemini all-flash array line set to add higher density option

Nimbus Data System Inc. has long offered all-flash systems that claim high performance and a broad range of enterprise storage features. The company is on the verge of adding a higher capacity option. Continue Reading

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Pure Storage bolsters FlashArray line with more capacity choices

Pure Storage Inc. has added new entry-level and higher-capacity models and replication capabilities to the fourth-generation release of its FlashArray line. Continue Reading

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Skyera turns heads on price with skyHawk, readies larger skyEagle

Skyera Inc. claimed prices of less than $3 per gigabyte, with or without data reduction factored in, with its initial skyHawk all-flash array. The company said its upcoming, higher-density skyEagle will target enterprise mission-critical applications and workloads of cloud service providers. Continue Reading

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SolidFire seeks to grow customer base beyond cloud to enterprise IT

SolidFire Inc.'s all-flash arrays to date have appealed largely to cloud service providers, but the company hopes the addition of new storage features this year will enable it to expand to a general enterprise IT audience. Continue Reading

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Tegile breaks hybrid focus with release of new T3800 all-flash array

Tegile Systems Inc. concentrated on hybrid arrays equipped with HDDs and SSDs until the release of its new T3800 all-flash model, which targets high-performance workloads, such as big-data analysis and online transaction processing, or OLTP. Tegile also continues to sell an all-flash version of its HA2800, which customers generally augment with hard disks. Continue Reading

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Violin extends focus beyond speed, plans enterprise storage features

All-flash pioneer Violin Memory Inc. stood out with its own flash memory module, flash-optimized RAID technology and flash fabric architecture. The company has now started to expand its focus from all-out speed to also encompass enterprise storage features. Product plans call for the addition of such features as inline deduplication, inline compression and replication. Violin also has jointly developed a Windows Flash Array with Microsoft. Continue Reading

3Opinions and advice-

Experts weigh in on all-flash arrays

We asked industry analysts and consultants to offer advice and delve into some of the fine points about all-flash arrays to provide a deeper level of insight into the product market.

Tip

All-flash arrays: Performance vs. function

George Crump of Storage Switzerland offers criteria to help you decide whether performance or function is more important when you choose all-flash storage arrays. Continue Reading

Answer

When to consider the purchase of an all-flash array

Mark Peters, a senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group Inc., cautions again looking at all-flash arrays just because they're "new, shiny things." Features, capacity, scalability and ease of use will factor into the equation, but perhaps the most important consideration is the financial one. Continue Reading

Podcast

Making sense of all-flash array vendors' wild performance claims

Interpreting the performance claims of all-flash array vendors can be difficult because the test conditions vary widely and rarely if ever mimic the environments of end users. Dennis Martin, president of Demartek LLC, which operates an on-site test lab in Golden, Colorado, explains how to sift through through IOPS, throughput and latency for varying workloads, what to look for with block size and workload type, and when a million IOPS or microsecond latency might matter. Continue Reading