EMC adds XtremIO X-Brick for flash beginners

EMC XtremIo flash array platform gets a new Starter X-Brick with 5 TB of capacity, a six-node X-Brick cluster on the high end and inline compression.

EMC expanded its XtremIO all-flash array platform today with an entry-level Starter X-Brick configuration, the ability to scale to six nodes, the addition of inline compression, the encryption of data at rest and writeable snapshots.

EMC made XtremIO X-Brick arrays generally available in November 2013 in one-brick, two-brick and four-brick configurations; each brick containing 10 terabytes (TB) or 20 TB of flash. The new Starter X-Brick can be 5 TB or 10 TB. On the high end, the new six-X-Brick clusters have 12 active controllers and can bring the raw capacity to 90 TB after RAID.

The compression, encryption and writeable snapshots are part of the XtremIO operating system and will work with XtremIO arrays already on the market. EMC is also adding support for its ViPR software-defined storage platform and Cinder block storage for OpenStack clouds.

EMC is continuing the trend in the market of adding more storage functionality to all-flash arrays, which started out mainly as performance systems.

Early flash arrays from Texas Memory Systems -- now part of IBM -- Violin Memory and Kaminario were originally built solely on performance, but those vendors have since added storage management features. Other all-flash vendors such as Pure Storage, Nimbus Data, SolidFire and Tegile Systems tout their storage management features, particularly deduplication.

Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) modified their mainstream storage arrays to support all-flash, with their usual storage management features.

Mark Peters, senior analyst for Enterprise Strategy Group, said pure performance all-flash arrays are becoming a niche as vendors add management and data protection features.

"There were the speed-up kings like Texas Memory Systems, Violin, Kaminario and even XtremIO straddled the lines originally," Peters said. "But flash is not a market, it's a technology -- now that technology has been integrated with storage functionality."

EMC claims XtremIO is the fastest-growing flash platform on the market, with more than $100 million in revenue over its first six months shipping. According to market research firm Gartner, EMC generated $74 million in revenue from XtremIO and VNX-F all-flash arrays last year for 11.1% of the all-flash array market, although XtremIO was generally available for less than two months in 2013.

Jeremy Burton, EMC president of products and marketing, called XtremIO "the fastest-growing product in EMC history."

XtremIO supported inline deduplication from the start, but the compression will help it reduce capacity further, according to XtremIO vice president of product management Josh Goldstein. After data is deduped, the remaining unique blocks will be compressed so only unique, compressed blocks get written to flash. Goldstein said the result of having applications deduped and compressed will be an average data reduction of around 6-to-1. That ratio would bring the six-brick X-Brick cluster to 540 TB usable capacity.

Writeable snapshots, which can be written to after mounted, can instantly create application development and test environments with no impact on storage performance. It allows customers to test real data on a server before moving production data to the server.

EMC is also offering a seven-year warranty on SSD endurance for customers under support contract. The vendor said it will replace any SSDs if they reach 95% of their endurance limit during the support contract.

Next Steps

Crump: Keep XtremIO performance in perspective

The state of the all-flash array marketplace

The shift to 100% flash SSD storage systems

Dig deeper on SSD array implementations

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