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EMC XtremIO flash array available July, server flash cards expanded

Antony Adshead

EMC has made three flash storage product announcements, with news that its XtremIO all-flash array is shipping to beta customers, new capacity options for its server flash PCIe cards and new flash caching software.

Also, the storage giant has rebranded its flash products, bringing the server flash and flash caching software in line with the XtremIO flash array and calling them XtremSF and XtremSW respectively.

XtremIO flash array from July

The XtremIO all-flash array has been shipped to some beta customers and will be generally available from July 2013. It is a Fibre Channel/iSCSI scale-out all-flash array with IOPS increasing as customers add so-called X-Bricks of 10TB raw capacity.

So, for example, a single X-Brick provides 250,000 4k random read IOPS (100,000 write IOPS) and a four X-Brick cluster provides 1 million 4k random read IOPS (400,000 write IOPS). Currently XtremIO will scale to eight X-Bricks but expansion to 10 is planned.

Although raw X-Brick capacity is 10TB the XtremIO XIOS operating system has inline data deduplication built in, so effective capacities are potentially in the order of factors of ten more than this.

The big storage suppliers have been rushing to incorporate flash array capability into their product lines, driven by customer needs for high IOPS to support server and desktop virtualisation. Last year, Hitachi Data Systems announced a flash module for its VSP SANs while NetApp recently announced it had ported a traditional HDD E-Series array to all-flash use.

XtremIO is the fruit of an EMC acquisition last year and gives the company a flash array built from the ground up, which is important as storage controller hardware and operating systems need to be optimised to the speed of flash storage.

Where it shows up as being in the early stages of development, however, is that the XtremIO is effectively a standalone array that cannot work in the management framework of other EMC arrays. That will be addressed in due course, said EMC flash business development manager, Richard Gordon.

“In the first instance we are focusing very much on application performance and IOPS-hungry environments. It will be a standalone array at first but greater integration with EMC products is planned in future releases,” Gordon said.

VFCache becomes XtremSF

EMC has rebranded its server flash PCIe card family as XtremSF and added enterprise Multi Level Cell (eMLC) cards of 550GB and 2.2TB in addition to the existing Single Level Cell (SLC) 350GB and 700GB cards already available.

It will release 700GB and 1.4TB eMLC cards in the spring or summer of 2013.

The addition of eMLC options makes for somewhat more affordable server flash from EMC. Unlike spinning disk, flash storage sustains a wear penalty for every write operation. SLC is the best performing and durable of the flash SSD types, because the number of writes is limited per flash cell. eMLC takes the MLC flash widely used for consumer products with its multiple writes per cell and builds in methods to lengthen life and reduce cell wear for business users.

EMC is clearly gunning for server flash market pioneer Fusion-io, with explicit references to the competitor in its marketing presentations in which it claims two times the IOPS and CPU usage efficiency over its rival.

XtremSW roadmap

The announcement also saw the rebranding of EMC’s VFCache flash caching software as XtremSW and the laying out of a roadmap for the XtremSW Suite, which will incorporate server flash pooling, cache coherency and further EMC storage array and VMware integration.

Flash caching software provides intelligence to server flash that allows it to, for example operate efficiently with server memory, with array cache and to pool data between flash cards for data protection.


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