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Flash storage: Guide to enterprise all-flash storage arrays

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Pure Storage all-flash array touts maturity as market space expands

Pure Storage's third-generation flash array doubles capacity and continues to hold down costs via data reduction as competition heated up.

Pure Storage Inc.'s FlashArray line reached its fourth generation this year, adding replication and new entry-level and higher capacity models as it girded for a battle in an increasingly crowded all-flash array market space.

Flash array startup specialists such as Pure Storage now find themselves in competition with long-standing storage vendors. 

The new FA-450 scales up to 70 TB of raw capacity and supports 16 Gbps Fibre Channel to give large enterprises an additional option, and the FA-405 provides up to 11 TB of raw capacity with smaller and distributed businesses in mind. The new models have the same architecture as the existing FA-420, which offers up to 35 TB of raw capacity. FA-420 customers can upgrade non-disruptively to the FA-450 if they want to increase capacity or performance.

Highlights in new product

"Pure Storage runs on an x86 box. They use commodity SSDs. Their innovation is in the software," said Henry Baltazar, a senior analyst at Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Forrester Inc. "They've got a ton of funding [$470 million]. There's a lot of recognition around them. They've got a lot of feet on the street."

Pure Storage claims to deliver all-flash storage at a cost that is competitive with, if not lower than, systems with hard-disk drives. Its FlashArray FA-450's purported price per GB of less than $3 with data reduction factored in placed it among the lowest among all-flash arrays.

Pure Storage is among the few all-flash vendors to support both inline deduplication and compression. Another area where Pure Storage's FlashArray stands out from the pack includes its use of proprietary RAID technology.

Lowlights

On the flip side, the product lacks support for scale-out architecture and quality of service. Most all-flash arrays support those capabilities.

The company claims FlashArray can store in excess of 120 TB through data reduction. Deduplication and compression, however, can vary by data set. Pure Storage's website includes a ticker that it claims shows the average data reduction rate, factoring in deduplication and compression, across all deployments.

What can you do with it?

Typical use cases for Pure Storage's FlashArray include heavily virtualized server environments, database acceleration and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) installations. A list of case studies on the company's website showed data reduction ratios ranging from 5 to 1 to 17 to 1 for VDI deployments and from 3.5 to 1 to 10 to 1 for databases and/or VMware deployments.

More than a dozen of the case studies on Pure Storage's website involved VDI deployments. Organizations using FlashArray for VDI included the San Jose Sharks' NHL hockey team, the Waxahachie (Texas) independent school district and Riverview Hospital in Noblesville, Indiana.

FA-405 pricing starts at less than $100,000 for 10 TB of usable capacity. 

There is no performance degradation during controller failure, and data is accessible. "We cap the performance in what a single system can provide, just for this purpose -- explicitly to provide the same performance during upgrades and/or failures," Jim Sangster, Pure's director of product and solutions marketing, wrote in an email.

"This is intentionally how FlashArray is architected and delivered through the two systems with active-active front end and active-passive back end and the notion that when one fails, it is the other that is running full tilt. When both are in normal operation, the I/O ports from both are used, but we are never using performance of both."

This was first published in May 2014

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Essential Guide

Flash storage: Guide to enterprise all-flash storage arrays

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