IBM moves to MLC in FlashSystem 900 and V9000 all-flash arrays

IBM boosts density with new Micron MLC flash drives in revamped all-flash arrays, the FlashSystem 900 and the V9000 that includes SAN Volume Controller storage virtualisation hardware

IBM has announced two new all-flash array products, the FlashSystem 900 and the V9000, which incorporate IBM’s SAN Volume Controller (SVC) storage virtualisation technology.

Both new arrays are based on a move from eMLC (enterprise multi-level cell) to MLC (multi-level cell) flash chips and provide a roughly 50% increase in base capacity.

But apart from the capacity/density boost and changes to potential capacity configurations, there is no performance increase. There is, in fact, a slight slowing in latency terms despite the change of flash drives.

The FlashSystem 900 succeeds the existing 840 all-flash array. It uses Micron-made “IBM enhanced” MLC flash drives in hot-swappable so-called Microlatency Modules that come in 1.2TB, 2.9TB and 5.7TB capacities to provide a maximum of just under 58TB in 2U. The 840 only allowed for increases of 4TB of flash at a time.

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IBM rates IOPS at 1.1 million for reads and 600,000 for writes, a figure unchanged from the 840. However, latency is increased from 135 microseconds in the 840 to 155 microseconds in the 900. IBM’s FlashCore architecture distributes RAM around the Microlatency Modules instead of only having it at controller level.

Connectivity is 8Gbps and 16Gbps Fibre Channel, 40Gbps Infiniband and 10Gbps Ethernet.

In its publicity, IBM explicitly acknowledged the competition with claims that the FlashSystem 900 is “up to four times better capacity in less rack space than EMC XtremIO flash technology”.

IBM FlashSystem V9000 is essentially similar to the FlashSystem 900, but with IBM’s SVC storage virtualisation hardware added. This allows for up to 32PB of external storage to be managed from the V9000. Internally, the V9000 can house from 2TB to 456TB of capacity in the same MLC flash modules as the 900.

IBM introduced the 840 and V840 about a year ago. They were the first flash arrays designed by IBM following the company’s acquisition of Texas Memory Systems.

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