. . . And Whiptail's commodity drives that aren't

Whiptail is another all-flash array vendor. Unlike Violin Memory it doesn’t mince any words about being an SSD vendor or not.

It sells hardware that ranges from 3 TB to 72 TB; a head/controller on top of Intel 2.5″ MLC drives. Its software provides buffering intelligence that deals with flash wear issues and RAID levels 0, 5, 6, and 10 are available.

In conversation with Whiptail EMEA VP and general manager Brian Feller he made a point of stating that the vendor uses “commodity drives”. Here’s how the conversation went after that.

Me: “Commodity drives, you say? So, I could buy drives from anywhere, as a commodity, and use them in a Whiptail array?”

Brian: “No. You have to buy them from us or you invalidate the warranty because we quality assure them. We remotely monitor all our arrays so we’d know, and we’d also cut technical support.”

It’s quite remarkable that “commodity” can come to mean “a product you can only buy from one company.” It’s also staggering that Whiptail sees the need justify this on the need to QA drives from Intel. It’s not like they’re some SE Asian white box no-name vendor.

But that’s the world of storage, which sometimes feels years behind other areas of IT in terms of customer lock-in.

(For blog posts before mid-September2012 see UK Data Storage Buzz.)

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I totally understand your point of view and wanted to explain a little more deeply why we only support 'our' drives… I hope you will read on. The Whiptail unique value is in our far reaching performance and our long term guarantee of commodity equipment. The way we provide both of these things is by layering into our OS deep understanding of the way specific flash technology works, meaning we adapt our OS for specific drives. Moving forward we're continuing to innovate this space and taking advantage of new and exciting technologies from all the NAND vendors and beyond. Any product which allows the generic varied block sizes seen in an shared storage system to fall directly to any flash weather SLC, MLC or future technologies, without running some sort of control and interpretation layer will hammer the drives, reduce life and severally hamper performance. Without this tie in products in this category would have lower performance and the drives would burn out in short shrift, meaning it would not be enterprise ready. Hope this helps. Happy to speak with you regarding our product at any time!