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All-flash storage roundup 2016: The startups

Computer Weekly surveys the startups and specialists in the all-flash array space and find a market in which advanced storage features are becoming the norm, while suppliers battle down to $1/GB

2015 was a mixed one for the startups in the all-flash array market. There have been acquisitions, initial public offerings, new entrants and some all-flash pioneers have not fared as well as they might like. 

There have, however, been a number of developments among the startups in the flash storage market.

The first is in feature sets. All suppliers have started to produce feature-rich products that have data protection (RAID, replication) and optimisation (thin provisioning, compression, data deduplication) features as standard.

At the same time, price has become a battleground, with $1/GB being the magic target each supplier wants to achieve, in much the same way the 1ms response time was seen as the magic performance number. This low price point is being achieved through the use of the latest technology such as TLC NAND, as well as data optimisation techniques, which – of course – use supplier-quoted reduction ratios.

All-flash has become extremely competitive and hybrid flash array suppliers have entered the all-flash market with new variants of their products. A notably absent supplier in this regard is Nimble Storage, which currently only has hybrid offerings.

With the amount of competition in place, 2016 could see an interesting shakedown in the market, with more startups acquired or going out of business.

For example, this year’s roundup excludes Nimbus Data, which had no product news or announcements. Skyera, which featured in previous roundups, was acquired by HGST and has not resurfaced as a product under the new company.

Coho Data

Coho Data raised a further $30m in investment in May 2015 and released its first all-flash product, the 2000f. Coho’s architecture is built of multiple MicroArrays, 2U storage nodes that are connected by 10Gbps Ethernet SDN-based networking infrastructure.

Each 2000f system consists of two controllers, four 1.6TB PCIe SSD flash devices and up to 24 SSDs in multiple capacity configurations. This provides scalability from 7TB to 47TB of raw capacity or 11TB to 93TB of usable capacity after data optimisation.

Each 2000f node is capable of up to 320,000 read IOPS or 220,000 read/write IOPS. Clusters can be built by scaling out multiple MicroArrays, which – in this case – can be all-flash-based or hybrid as required.

Kaminario

Kaminario announced v5.5 of its K2 platform in August 2015. 

The latest systems make use of 3D TLC NAND technology, making Kaminario one of only a few current suppliers to use this (others include Dell, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and SolidFire).

K2 systems can now scale out and scale up to a maximum raw capacity of around 740TB and a projected 1.44PB after data reduction technologies are applied. Performance is rated at 250,000 IOPS for a single K-block system, and up to 1 million IOPS and 12.8GBps of bandwidth for a fully scaled K2.

Version 5.5 of K2 also introduced native array replication and improved financial terms called Perpetual Array, which allows customers to mix and match hardware generations while extending maintenance across an entire K2 cluster.

NexGen Storage

NexGen Storage came to the all-flash market with two arrays in November 2015. The N5-1500 and N5-3000 models both use a mix of PCIe flash SSDs (2.6TB in each), combined with either 15TB to 60TB or 30TB to 60TB of solid state drives. The two models effectively set two possible entry points for customers.

NexGen is one of only a few suppliers looking to tier flash by deploying PCIe and SSD. This points to a trend we may see more of in 2016. Its systems also offer quality of service to enable scaling in a multi-tenant environment. Both models scale up to 450,000 IOPS and up to 6GBps of throughput.

Pure Storage

Pure Storage moved from startup to established business with its Initial Public Offering in October 2015. Prior to that, in June 2015, the company launched a revamp of its FlashArray platform based on new hardware, with three new models under the FlashArray//m brand. The //m20 (5TB to 40TB raw), //m50 (30TB to 88TB raw) and //m70 (44TB to 136TB) models scale to in excess of 120TB, 250TB and 400TB respectively after data optimisation.

Performance scales from 150,000 IOPS at the low end with the //m20 and up to 300,000 IOPS for the //m70, all with less than 1ms latency. Pure has also introduced Evergreen Storage, a buying model to reduce the impact of forklift upgrades.

SolidFire

SolidFire released version 8 of its Element OS, code named Oxygen, in June 2015. The release brings in incremental improvements in multi-tenancy through extended VLAN tagging, new data protection features (synchronous replication, snapshot replication) and additional management features with LDAP authentication.

In February 2015, SolidFire released the SF9605, the latest option in its scale-out node platform. Nodes now scale from 2.4TB to 9.6TB in capacity (raw) or from 10TB to 40TB usable, after data optimisation. Each node is capable of around 50,000 IOPS (SF9010 at 75,000 IOPS).

At the time of writing, NetApp was in the process of acquiring SolidFire with the deal set to close in the first quarter of 2016.

Tintri

Tintri, an existing hybrid array startup, moved into the all-flash market in August 2015 with the release of two all-flash VMstore systems (T5060 and T5080). This was followed in December 2015 with a new entry-level model, the T5040.

The three models scale from 5.76TB to 23TB of raw capacity or 18TB to 73TB after data optimisation. Tintri claims the systems will support between 1,500 and 5,000 virtual machines, with NFS and SMB3 support covering VMware vSphere, Red Hat Enterprise Virtualisation, Microsoft Hyper-V and XenServer hypervisors. VMstore also supports OpenStack (Juno release) and later.

Tegile

Tegile, also an existing hybrid storage startup, first came to the all-flash market with the release of the IntelliFlash T3800 in June 2014. The product family was extended in November 2014 with the T3600 and T3700.

The three systems, based on ZFS, all come with 192GB of system memory and offer varying levels of flash capacity from 12TB to 48TB (raw), scaling to 314TB to 336TB (raw) across the range.

In August 2015, Tegile announced the IntelliFlash HD platform, a system that combines the IntelliFlash controller and high density InfiniFlash enclosures from SanDisk. This system provides up to 512TB of flash in 3U, with sub-millisecond latency and a quoted 5 million IOPS per rack. High density flash is another trend to look out for in 2016.

Violin Memory

Violin Memory released the Flash Storage Platform (FSP) in February 2015, with additional models in December 2015.

The FSP 7000 series now has five variations (7700, 7600, 7300, 7300E and 7250) that scale from the entry-point FSP 7250 with 8.8TB to 26.6TB and 250,000 IOPS at 1ms latency to the FSP 7700 with 700TB (raw), 2.1PB usable and up to 2 million IOPS, 10GBps throughput and a minimum of 0.18ms latency.

Violin still offers the previous 6000 generation systems and Windows Flash Array, an SMB-based platform for use with Microsoft Windows systems and applications. 

X-IO Technologies

X-IO Technologies debuted an all-flash version of its Intelligent Storage Element (ISE) to the market in March 2015. The three ISE 800 series models (ISE 820 G3, ISE 850 G3 and ISE 860G3) provide between 6.4TB and 51.2TB of capacity at up to 400,000 IOPS and 5GBps of throughput.

At release, the ISE 800 held the top spot for the Storage Performance Council’s SPC-1 price/performance benchmark.

X-IO added features to the ISE series, including synchronous mirroring, thin provisioning, quality of service and management through a Rest-based application programming interface.

Read more about flash storage

This was first published in February 2016

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