As the vendor who introduced flash drives into traditional arrays some 2+ years ago, we shouldn’t be surprised that EMC has released an all-flash version of its mid-range array, the VNX. The new device, codenamed VNX5500-F can support up to 250 200GB drives for a maximum all-flash capacity of 50TB. EMC don’t say, but assuming the drives are something like the STEC ZeusIOPS SSD, with around 25,000 8K block IOPS on a 70/30 read/write split, then we’re looking at 625,000 IOPS per shelf and around 4.8GB/s throughput (again, per shelf).
However, the VNX is still a CLARiiON at heart (with all the legacy baggage that entails), so one wonders what additional capabilites the VNX5500-F has to cope with this huge I/O workload and of course, to manage the finite lifetime of SSD devices. More important is the ability to cope with the fickle performance of I/O spikes that are associated with SSD garbage collection. There’s no mention of how (or even if) EMC have added technology to cater for these issues. Bearing in mind what an all-flash array will cost, then 100% guaranteed low latency of every I/O will be expected.
The new market startups (Violin, Pure, SolidFire & others) will have to compete against EMC’s marketing machine but to be fair this is a technology that already offers a wide range of features, including connectivity via all the common protocols in use today. EMC will be able to sell simply on feature, functionality and support.
The VNX5500-F may seem like putting a Rolls Royce engine in a mini compared to the competition, who are more like thoroughbred Ferraris and Lamborghinis, however as usual, cost will be the ultimate decider. EMC don’t quote price, but simply indicate that cost per TPM is vastly reduced. I’d like to see some real world list costs from EMC (which won’t happen) plus some statements on how this dedicated VNX deals with the particular issues of SSD drives. If you are considering an all flash array, then these questions need to be on your list.