Flash – King of the Impossible

I am a little kid at heart and mind so whenever someone says “Flash” I immediately play Queen in my head and visions of Flash Gordon pop to mind. The truth is the song isn’t that far off of how Flash storage helps with datacenter I/O loads it really is doer of the impossible. EMC recently announced XtremIO¬†which is our foray into the all flash array. It opened up to some criticism from the competitive market which is of course expected as EMC is somewhat late to the game in all flash storage, but that doesn’t mean that flash hasn’t been part of the EMC portfolio.

In fact XtremSF which is EMC’s server based flash solution (SF stands for server flash) has been around for some time. VNX has had Flash drive integration for caching (Fast Cache) for even longer. So really to say EMC just started caring about Flash because of market pressure isn’t a reality. The thing is that EMC didn’t want to jump into the All Flash Array (AFA) market without thinking about how Flash storage works.

The thing about flash is that people think about it as a catch all so they will throw flash drives at a read or write latency issue hoping the shear IOPs the drives can sustain will solve the problems they are having. As you stack the flash drives together you need intellegence to divide that load, but what about dedup in many flash use cases the blocks being written are the same; think VDI linked clones. Not all AFAs dedup data but XtremIO does. Common storage tasks like snapshots and replication is coming as the platform continues to mature.

Another knock brought up by competitors was around the XtremIO requirement for in rack batteries. Which at first I was confused by, having worked with Flash storage before more specifically software based arrays that convert server RAM and present it as Flash based NFS, I knew that if the server lost power the “NFS” store and everything in it were gone. Of course Flash should have a battery if you have data on the array and would like to give it a fighting chance you will want to make sure you give it the power it needs.

But I have an UPS. Sure you do and I am sure that you maintain the battery life cycle properly and you have properly routed your power paths to be dual homed across UPS. The fact of the matter is EMC takes an Enterprise approach to all things and flash storage is no different. Therefore extra measures were taken.

XtremIO is one of only a few AFAs that supports ActiveActive configuration, in-line De-duplication, and scalability. Now I am not saying it is without issues, it’s not and they are known and documented. Like any new product launch there will be growing pains and as things move forward these will be resolved and additional functionality and EMC product family assimilation will occur.

The Flash market is going to grow a little more before winners and losers are shown, just like my decision to join EMC I think that the 800 lb gorilla is a good choice to place your bet. EMC knows storage and is dedicated to make XtremIO a success. Like Capital One would ask whats in your wallet, I say What’s in your rack?