The Pure Storage FlashArray includes two models. The FA-310 is a single controller system with one solid-state drive (SSD) enclosure, and the FA-320 has two controllers and enclosures. Each enclosure shelf holds 5.5 TB of raw capacity.
The vendor’s Purity 2.0 software supports active-active controllers for high availability, VMware vSphere 5.0 VAAI APIs, full-array encryption and a new management GUI and command line interface. Pure also added what it calls FlashCare technology that improves multi-level cell (MLC) flash performance and longevity through better garbage collection and periodic refreshes of flash cells for longer data retention. Pure VP of product management Matt Kixmoeller said replication between arrays is coming soon.
Pure Storage has supported inline deduplication and compression from the start. The vendor claims its arrays bring an average 5.8 to 1 dedupe ratio. Pure also costs an average of $4 per gigabyte to $8 per gigabyte, making it competitive with the price of spinning disk.
Pure Storage is among the vendors committed to all-flash storage rather than adding solid-state drives (SSDs) to existing arrays or using flash as a cache with spinning disk. “From the beginning, we felt if we could drive the cost of flash down to around the cost of spinning disk, then going with flash would be an obvious choice,” Kixmoeller said. “Why bother with flash and tiering when you can do all flash?”
Kixmoeller said the vendor shipped over 100 arrays to early access customers, and is making the systems generally available with full support.
City of Davenport runs VDI off flash array
Cory Smith, network administrator for the city of Davenport, Iowa, said he brought in two FA-310s in beta for testing late last year after his Hewlett-Packard EVA 44000 failed to deliver the performance needed for a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) deployment.
“Performance kept us from using the [EVA], I couldn’t get our end users to buy into it,” he said. “People were pointing us toward solid-state. I’m assuming most storage vendors will go this way [all flash], but I’m at the point where I have to buy something now. There’s no way we could keep doing what we were doing.”
He said he found Pure attractive because of its built-in deduplication and compression for the base price.
He installed a FlashArray for 200 virtual desktops running on VMware View. The city has six VDI configurations for separate groups such as the fire department, police department and city hall. Davenport uses the other FlashArray as a backup unit for high availability. “If I take one unit down, I can Storage VMotion everyone from one machine to the other and do maintenance,” Smith said.
He said he has 197 virtual machines on one LUN for VDI on one box, and an additional 44 servers on another LUN. Besides the VDI, Davenport stores its main Microsoft Exchange server, SQL servers and a domain controller on the FA-310. During a recent mid-week day check, Smith said the array was running with .6 milliseconds of latency and 2,000 IOPS.
Smith said his average dedupe ratio is 8.6-1. He said he intends to upgrade to two dual-controller FA-320s now that FlashArray has gone GA. One box would go to a DR site. Smith said he is looking forward to Pure 2.0 for its web interface and fixing of “quirks” in garbage collection.
California-based eMeter eliminates storage bottleneck for massive reads
Based in San Mateo, Calif., eMeter sells an application to help manage Smart Grid energy systems. The company has been using a dual-controller FA-320 for more than a year for high performance applications, senior system administrator Byran Bond said. The company already has IBM-branded NetApp filers and Nimble Storage iSCSI arrays but Bond said he wanted an all-flash system to run a read-intensive training application stack that includes Oracle and SQL databases and 120 virtual machines.
“What we really got it for was to take this hugely populated database and do testing with a massive amount of reads, not writes,” Bond said. “By having the source database sitting on the Pure box, read performance is not a problem anymore. Now we need more RAM and CPU to keep up. Storage isn’t the bottleneck now.”
He said the FA-320 gives him about 6 TB of usable storage, but he gets more than 2-1 deduplication on average and his Oracle database dedupes at a 3.5 to 1 ratio. Bond said he has already purchased one FlashArray and may add more. “I don’t foresee replacing all my storage with it, but there’s a good sweet spot for us,” he said.
He would like to see Pure add features such as snapshots and replication that are common to most storage arrays. “I don’t need them for my current setup, but I will if I want to set up off-site DR,” he said.