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Enterprise and midrange SAN survey 2019: Hitachi, IBM and NetApp

Part two of two: While all-flash is mainstream, NVMe is an option as disk replacement for most suppliers, while NetApp leads the way with NVMe end-to-end to hosts

As noted in the first piece, the key products of the big five storage array makers – Dell EMC, HPE, Hitachi, IBM and NetApp – are primarily offered as all-flash storage, with hybrid flash and spinning disk as options too.

However, we noted that flash is where the key boundaries of innovation lie, with non-volatile memory express (NVMe) flash drives available in high-end enterprise arrays from Dell EMC, IBM and NetApp, with only HPE bucking the trend by using NVMe as connectivity for storage-class memory as a cache layer – This is set for inclusion in Dell EMC’s Powermax high-end arrays too.

Standard spec/features include input/output per second (IOPS) that run into the millions and capacities that go to several tens or beyond of petabytes (PB), Fibre Channel and iSCSI connectivity to hosts, with mainframe in a small number of products (notably from IBM and Hitachi in this article), plus Dell EMC in the first. Dual controllers, replication, snapshots, encryption, thin provisioning and data reduction are also common to most.

As mentioned, when it comes to the cloud, all the array makers have some way of using the cloud as a tier, which we have looked at here.

In this article, we’ll look at Hitachi’s VSP F- and G-series, IBM’s FlashSystem, StorWize and DS arrays, plus finally NetApp’s AFF/FAS, Solidfire and E/EF-series.

The accompanying piece examined Dell EMC’s VMAX/PowerMax, Xtremio, Unity, SC, and PowerVault ME4 products, plus HPE’s 3PAR and Nimble arrays.


Hitachi Vantara’s VSP F-series all-flash enterprise SAN storage comes in three models: the F700, F900 and F1500. These are claimed to deliver 1.4, 2.4 and 4.8 million IOPS respectively.

They are enterprise-scale storage area network (SAN) arrays with capacity for 864, 1,152, and 2,304 drives respectively, which gives a raw maximum capacity of between 6PB and 8PB.

For the two smaller arrays, connectivity is via 16Gbps or 32Gbps Fibre Channel or iSCSI with 10Gbps Ethernet. The F1500 has Fibre Channel plus (mainframe) FICON, both at 8Gbps and 16Gbps, plus Fibre-Channel-over-Ethernet at 10Gbps.

A pair of midrange F-series arrays – the F350 and F370 – offer a claimed 600,000 IOPS and 1.2 million IOPS with 192 or 288 drive slots for maximum raw capacity of 2.8PB or 4.3PB. Connectivity is 16Gbps and 32Gbps Fibre Channel plus 10Gbps iSCSI/Ethernet.

Meanwhile, the VSP G350, G3700 and G900 hybrid flash arrays range from entry-level maximum capacity of a couple of PB to 35PB, depending on the drives used, which can be a mixture of 2.4TB and 6TB spinning disk as well as up to 15TB flash.

Performance ranges from 600,000 IOPS to 4.8 million. Connectivity is similar to the F-series, with mainframe connectivity in the G1500 top-of-the-range model.


FlashSystem: IBM’s FlashSystem products all come with TLC flash drives. The V9000 scales out to eight controllers and disk shelves, or from 43TB to 1.7PB, with IOPS of between 1.3 million and 5.2 million. Connectivity is up to 16Gbps Fibre Channel and 10Gbps iSCSI and Fibre Channel-over-Ethernet.

The V9100 comes with NVMe modules and claims between 2.5 million IOPS and 10 million IOPS for a clustered configuration.

Meanwhile, the FlashSystem A9000 offers TLC flash capacity from just over 100TB up to 1.2PB (both are effective, not raw figures) with up to 900,000 IOPS.

The FlashSystem A9000R comes in three size configurations: 72TB to 144TB, 170TB to 340TB, and 360TB to 720TB – all raw capacities. IOPS is 2.4 million for all three and connectivity is Fibre Channel and iSCSI to 16Gbps and 10Gbps respectively.

The FlashSystem 900 offers 13TB per 2U box with 1.1 million IOPS read-only, and around 800,000 IOPS with 70/30 read/write.

StorWize: IBM’s StorWize V5030F can house up to 760 drives (or double that in a clustered configuration), which, with 15TB flash drives, makes for around 22PB maximum capacity. IBM Spectrum Virtualize software (formerly SAN Volume Controller) allows for storage virtualisation across disparate devices.

StorWize V7000F scales up to 3,040 drives, making for about 44PB raw capacity.

Minus the F suffix, StorWize provides hybrid flash array functionality.

DS series: IBM’s DS8000F series are its all-flash arrays aimed at mainframe use cases. There are three models that come in different capacities up to 1.2PB and connectivity via 8Gbps and 16Gbps Fibre Channel and FICON.

The DS8880 is IBM’s hybrid flash SAN array family, which comes in capacities up to about 5PB, of which approximately one sixth – in terms of drive bays/card slots – can be solid state. Once again, the DS brings mainframe compatibility.


AFF/FAS: NetApp’s AFF series – All-Flash FAS – come in five models that scale from clusters of two to 24 nodes (12 HA pairs) with maximum effective capacities that run up to 700-plus TB per node and the low hundreds of PB (after data reduction) in maximum-sized clusters. Out of these the AFF800 is NVMe-equipped, and offers latency under 200µs with claimed end-to-end NVMe connectivity, including over Fibre-Channel.

NetApp’s FAS line continues as a set of hybrid flash arrays, with the FAS2700, 8200 and 9000 series. The SME/mid-size 2700 starts at 10TB and can scale to 17PB in a 24-node cluster. The 9000 scales to 176PB.

Solidfire: The Solidfire all-flash storage product that NetApp acquired in 2015 come in a 1U form factor and three models, the H610S-1, H610S-2 and H610S-4.

They each hold 12 flash drives of 960GB, 1.92TB or 3.84TB for total capacity of 11.5TB, 23TB or 46TB.

With data reduction – data deduplication, compression and thin provisioning – effective capacity is upped by between 3x and 9x.

Solidfire started out targeted at cloud service providers and is Fibre Channel and iSCSI block storage.

EF- and E-series: NetApp’s E-Series arrays date back to NetApp’s acquisition of Engenio in 2011, whose arrays were designed for spinning disk. They run the SanTricity operating system, which is a legacy of that pedigree.

There are two all-flash arrays in the series, the EF280 and EF570, which offer 300,000 IOPS and 1 million IOPS respectively in hardware for 96 and 120 drives, plus maximum raw capacity that goes up to around 1.5PB with expansion shelves.

Meanwhile, there are two spinning disk E-series arrays, the E5724 and the E5760, with 24 and 60 drives respectively. The E5724 can scale to 120 flash drives and 180 HDDs, while the E5760 can accommodate 120 and 480 of each.

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