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Hybrid flash not good enough, says Kaminario customer

Cloud software provider Clarizen re-tools storage with all-flash arrays from Kaminario and forecasts the end for hybrid flash products that don't deliver on performance promises

Cloud collaboration software provider Clarizen has replaced its spinning disk storage with all-flash Kaminario arrays. In tests against hybrid flash storage, flash storage won hands down, with hybrid flash storage lagging badly in terms of performance.

Clarizen provides online collaboration software via the cloud to customers worldwide from the company’s four datacentres – one in London, one in Amsterdam and two in the US, in New Jersey and California.

The company began to look at the market when it needed more capacity but also because its existing HDD-based arrays – which it declined to name – started to run into performance problems, said VP for managed services, Meir Uziel.

“A combination of events led us to check the market,” he said. “We needed more storage and we didn’t feel our provider acted as a partner. They were only reactive and not proactive and just sent a licence renewal once a year.”

Uziel added: “We had performance issues with our disk-based storage. We had bottlenecks all over the place with IOPS limitations that affected the running of databases, background processes and backup, and we thought it was time to look at flash storage.”

Clarizen looked at disk-based, all-flash and hybrid flash storage products and carried out proof-of-concept trials over more than two months with each and with production data.

Eventually, Uziel’s team found that all-flash was far ahead of the others in terms of performance, and it deployed four Kaminario K2 all-flash arrays at the company’s datacentres.

In the Kaminario scheme, arrays come as K-Block nodes that range from 4U to 26U and between 7TB and 720TB capacity with IOPS into the millions with 400GB or 800GB multi-level cell (MLC) flash drives, although TLC drives are on the roadmap.

Kaminario K2 uses commodity hardware and its SPEAR (Scale out Performance and Resilient Architecture) operating system (OS) to build its all-flash product. Kaminario said it spreads writes around and has a write-buffer to prevent hotspots. It claimed a seven-year flash lifespan.

Kaminario arrays provide block access (Fibre Channel and iSCSI) and have thin provisioning, inline data deduplication and compression. Meanwhile, scale-up capability was added with the potential to add storage media without adding compute, and capacities go up to 720TB with IOPS in the millions at higher volumes of storage.

Read more on flash storage

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  • Flash storage 101: Why flash writes are troublesome, why endurance is limited and what suppliers are doing to overcome these issues.

Uziel’s view was that in the systems the company tested, which it declined to name, that the flash component’s performance lagged behind that of the all-flash array and that tiering between flash and spinning disk did not work very well.

“Hybrid was not really hybrid in the systems we tested,” he said. “You can put flash into a hybrid system, but it has to go to spinning disk to get the data. With all-flash, you don’t get that.

“With the hybrid systems we tested, it was like having two systems – one HDD, one flash. The suppliers showed us how their tiering system would put this data here and that data there, but when we tested them, we couldn’t control data movement between the tiers.”

Uziel also found the flash in Kaminario to be 10x faster than the flash in the hybrid system tested, especially in terms of IOPS.

He came to the conclusion that as flash prices decrease, the need for hybrid flash will disappear.

“Hybrid is not really there yet and I believe that if the price of flash keeps coming down, there will not be any such thing as hybrid flash.”

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