All-flash storage arrays offer choice between performance, function

Anyone looking at purchasing an all-flash storage array will inevitably have to choose between performance and function, according to George Crump of Storage Switzerland.

"If you break down the all-flash array market, you have feature-rich products that you might sacrifice some performance to get more traditional enterprise-class features," Crump said. "Then you have appliances focused specifically on delivering just high performance. Let's call it feature-poor, but they have very high performance."

Crump said that performance statistics on the two classes of products show an interesting contrast.

"You'll typically see all-flash array products with features are typically in the 400,000 to 500,000 IOPS range," he said. "The focused performance boxes are the ones that boast 1 million to 2 million IOPS configurations."

An emerging trend among all-flash arrays involves taking arrays that were originally designed for hard drives and installing flash, but Crump explains what those offer and what they lack in comparison with arrays built from the ground up.

"That's an interesting market. The legacy vendors, like Dell, EMC and HP, can be expected to be feature-rich because they are leveraging the different features that they carried forward," Crump said."You have to look at the architecture and can the architecture sustain a flash environment? We have no latency to hide behind now. That becomes a big issue. There are the architectures that were designed to handle it and then we've seen some who reboot the architecture to handle flash."

As all-flash arrays become the norm, the choice within the all-flash segment becomes primarily a function of the needs of the data center. For most data centers, feature-rich products offer enough performance for the job. But if you're in the market, you may want to confirm that level of performance and then decide whether a scale-up or a scale-out system is right for you.

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Flash storage is completely changing the storage landscape. It will be replacing HDDs at an increasing rate over the next 5 years. But given that SSDs are still much more expensive than HDDs and are not cost-effective for every scenario, the real question is which specific application workloads should be augmented or replaced by flash? This is where storage performance validation tools like Load DynamiX come into play. They offer a storage workload modeling and load generation appliance that is designed to help storage architects characterize their I/O profiles and then test them against potential flash or hybrid storage systems at full production scale. This ensures users don't over-provision or under-provision, saving money and ensuring performance SLAs.
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