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Flash storage: Guide to enterprise all-flash storage arrays

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Skyera all-flash arrays draw attention on price, capacity, hardware

Skyera's skyHawk and upcoming skyEagle all-flash arrays are drawing attention based on low price per gigabyte, high capacity and hardware innovation.

On paper, the all-flash arrays from Skyera Inc. have turned plenty of heads for their pricing.

San Jose, California-based Skyera claims its first product, skyHawk, has a price per gigabyte of $2.99 based on a configuration of 44 TB usable capacity. With 3-to-1 data reduction factored in, the price per gigabyte drops to 99 cents, according to Raymond Pang, director of product marketing at Skyera.

"They're incredibly impressive on the pricing front," said Mark Peters, a senior analyst at Milford, Mass.-based Enterprise Strategy Group Inc. "Many of the all-flash vendors will tell you that they can compete with spinning drive-[based arrays] on price. Usually that's as a result of compression and deduplication. Skyera and Nimbus will say, 'Now we can get down to comparison prices even without using those other tools.' "

But while Skyera first announced skyHawk in August 2012, it didn't ship in volume until April 2014. Pang said skyHawk has shipped in limited availability to an unspecified number of large enterprises and government agencies since the third quarter of 2013. The follow-on skyEagle is not expected until the second half of 2014, according to Pang.

While skyHawk targets smaller-scale, lighter-weight, lower-power use cases and enterprise test and development environments, the upcoming higher-density skyEagle will aim to expand into enterprise mission-critical applications and the workloads of cloud service providers, Pang said.

If skyEagle lives up to the company's claims, the product's capacity will max out at 650 TB raw (500 TB usable). The post-deduplication capacity can vary based on the data set, but whatever the case, the numbers would dwarf skyHawk's capacity limits of 44 TB usable and an estimated 88 TB post-data reduction.

"Skyera is promising to deliver a box that's 1U and almost a petabyte of storage, so that's significant. They have custom-built hardware, but they're also trying to design their own software," said George Crump, president and founder of Storage Switzerland LLC. He added that Skyera is "somebody to keep an eye on, but that's about it right now."

The skyHawk arrays use custom-built storage blades rather than traditional solid-state drives, proprietary flash-optimized RAID-SE technology, multi-level cell (MLC) flash and inline compression, and support file-based storage, in addition to block.

Henry Baltazar, a senior analyst at Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Forrester Inc., said Skyera's intellectual value and expertise lie in its hardware controllers and getting the most endurance out of consumer-grade MLC flash. "That's how they're able to get the really aggressive price points," he said.

The performance numbers that Skyera is already claiming for the upcoming skyEagle would place the product among the upper tier of all-flash arrays, if they hold up. The company listed the maximum read IOPS at 5 million, and the maximum write IOPS at 1.5 million.

Skyera's plans for the future skyEagle release also call for the addition of scale-out capabilities to the scale-up architecture, inline deduplication and support for Fibre Channel connectivity.

Skyera is one of many vendors to charge fees for select features in its all-flash array. The company requires a for-fee license for remote replication, whether synchronous or asynchronous, and charges for inline compression and data encryption. Inline deduplication will also carry a fee in the future.

Skyera claims less than 50% performance degradation if one node is lost in a two-controller configuration for skyHawk and skyEagle.

This was first published in May 2014

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Flash storage: Guide to enterprise all-flash storage arrays

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