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EMC launches VMAX All Flash, DSSD D5 shared flash storage

As part of its all-flash primary storage strategy, EMC brings out an all-SSD version of its VMAX enterprise array and its first DSSD shared storage appliance.

EMC today added two large pieces to its plans for providing all-flash versions of all of its primary storage platforms. EMC launched the VMAX All Flash platform for block, file, open and mainframe storage, and the DSSD D5 rack-scale flash shared storage system.

VMAX is EMC's flagship enterprise storage array. With VMAX All Flash, the platform has been recoded specifically for solid-state storage with the VMAX 450 and VMAX 850 arrays. The DSSD D5 is a 5U server-based flash appliance for high-performance analytical workloads, and the first system to become generally available with technology EMC acquired from startup DSSD in 2014.

"We are declaring 2016 the year of all-flash in primary storage," said Chris Ratcliffe, senior vice president of marketing for EMC's core technologies division. "We expect that, by the end of the year, the vast majority of our platforms that customers purchase will be all-flash, so we will have all-flash configurations in all of our primary platforms by the end of the year."

VMAX dumps spinning disk

Like most legacy storage arrays, previous VMAX versions were often sold as hybrids, with a small amount of SSDs mixed with spinning disk.

EMC's expectation is the total cost of ownership for flash is dropping to the point where customers will want primary storage without any hard disk drives. Under that scenario, customers will fill their bulk storage needs by moving nonprimary data to a public cloud.

EMC is already the all-flash market leader with its XtremIO platform, and has all-flash versions of its midrange VNX platform, with more to come this year.

The VMAX All Flash models store up to 4 PB of flash capacity in one box and include six-nines of availability. The systems use 3D NAND SSDs in capacities up to 3.9 TB.

The VMAX All Flash has a Vblock scaling architecture. Each V-Brick contains a VMAX engine, with 53 TB of usable capacity. The VMAX All Flash 450 holds up to four V-Bricks, and the 850 holds up to eight V-Bricks. Customers can also add 13 TB usable flash capacity packs to scale storage without adding an engine.

The VMAX All Flash models feature inline compression for data reduction, but don't offer data deduplication commonly found in other all-flash arrays. Ratcliffe said EMC's compression should provide at least a 2:1 data reduction. He said data deduplication's impact on performance is not a good fit for performance-hungry VMAX users.

EMC claimed VMAX can deliver more than 1 million IOPS, with under a millisecond of latency, while supporting up to 150 GB per second of bandwidth.

The new configurations are the 450F and 850F, the 450FX and 850FX. The difference between the F and FX models are the way software is purchased. The F models include basic software, with other features purchased a la carte, while the FX includes most of the software as a package.

The F models include thin provisioning, quality of service, Unisphere management software, Virtual Volumes support, TimeFinder SnapVX replication and AppSync for copy data management in the base package.

The FX base model includes other software that F customers can purchase individually. This includes SRDF replication software, ViPR Suite for automated provisioning and monitoring, eNAS for file storage, CloudArray for moving data to the cloud, and Unisphere 360 to manage 200 VMAX arrays in a data center.

Like previous VMAX versions, the all-flash systems also support ProtectPoint for flat backups directly from Data Domain backup appliances, without requiring a media server.

Lack of deduplication is one difference between the VMAX All Flash and XtremIO platforms.

Lack of deduplication is one difference between the VMAX All Flash and XtremIO platforms. Other significant differences are that VMAX is a multi-controller system, uses a large DRAM cache along with SSDs and scales capacity higher than XtremIO bricks.

The VMAX All Flash platform is copying the XtremIO Xpect More maintenance program, which keeps the annual service contract price flat for the lifetime of the array. Xpect More will be available for VMAX All Flash arrays.

Mark Peters, senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group Inc., in Milford, Mass., said EMC's all-flash primary strategy is another example of flash becoming the mainstream medium for high-performance storage.

"This proves what I've said for a long time: Flash is a medium, not a market," Peters said. "There was a lot of excitement around the early flash vendors, but this is testimony that we are in the midst of a media change across the whole market."

DSSD product finally arrives

EMC's DSSD product line has been well-hyped, with the vendor previewing and talking about its blazing speed for a year. The first version of this speed demon was slow to arrive, but will be available this month.

EMC claimed the D5 can deliver IOPS of up to 10 million, with 100 microsecond latency, 100 GB per second of bandwidth and 144 TB of raw storage in five rack units. The system can be accessed redundantly by up to 48 direct-attached clients. It uses dual-ported PCIe Gen 3 and NVMe server-based flash technologies. EMC built the D5's flash modules using raw NAND.

Each D5 includes 36 flash modules, and is available in capacities of 36 TB, 72 TB or 144 TB.  Its reliability and availability features include DSSD's proprietary Cubic RAID, dynamic wear leveling, flash physics control and space-time garbage collection.

Matt McDonough, senior director of product marketing for DSSD, said the main applications for the D5 will be those built on top of Hadoop for analytics, high-performance databases and custom apps for real-time data analytics.

DSSD includes interfaces to connect directly to applications, including a block interface for apps, such as Oracle databases, and an API for Hadoop Distributed File System.

"We see this as a new category of storage," McDonough said. "We call it rack-scale flash. There's a need for something that's dense and shared, flexible enough for legacy and new applications for business-critical workloads."

Eric Burgener, an IDC storage research director, said the D5 is an especially good fit for real-time analytics.

"There are some pretty significant differences between the D5 and your typical all-flash array," Burgener said. "One is the scale that this has been designed to operate at. Real-time analytics workloads require sub-millisecond response times. There is a huge data ingest for real-time analytics, and this can give you results in seconds."

Pricing for the D5 begins at $1 million for 36 TB of raw capacity. No pricing is available for the VMAX All Flash arrays. Both the VMAX All Flash arrays and DSSD D5 will also be available through EMC's VCE converged infrastructure group.

Next Steps

Tips for purchasing an all-flash array

A rundown of all-flash array features

Whether or not all-flash is the right choice

Dig Deeper on Server-based SSD implementations

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Do you agree with EMC that 2016 is the 'year of all-flash?'
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I hate to be a cynic, but I wonder if EMC would have thought this would be the year of all-flash if it didn't have a new flash offering that it wants all its customers to upgrade to.
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