back to article IBM dive-bombs into all-flash array pool

` Splash! IBM has launched its first in-house all-flash array, one of the fruits of its billion-dollar flash storage investment. The FlashSystem 840 is an impressive box but what do IBM's mainstream and startup competitors, each with their own all-flash arrays, think of it? We asked them - and we also asked IBM what it …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Interesting treatment

    Inviting competitors to attack a company/product in this way is special treatment indeed that I have not noticed being meted out to anyone before.

    As I understand it, the FlashSystem 840's primary purpose is to provide extremely low latency, extremely high performance and data center class reliability, availability, serviceability and security up to 40 TB. It has a Storwize GUI, but any software functions that would interfere with the latency are eschewed since it is not designed to be a traditional general purpose array. I would suggest that if folks really want to understand the 840 (which seems to me to have major RAS improvements over the TMS 820) they are probably best to talk to someone from IBM.

  2. PowerMan@thinksis

    Why ask the competition?

    What would you expect them to say about any IBM product? Excuse me Mr Honda seller - how does your car compare to the Toyota? This is a ridiculous article. What it does do is show who has a weak flash offering and who respectable competitive offering. Start with the respectable and competitive vendors which are HDS and Pure Storage. They have their approach which is fine "6 to one or half dozen to another". However, take EMC, HP and Dell, which do not have viable or scalable flash products. EMC has XtremeIO which calls a storage shelf a "brick" - that should say it all. Doesn't integrate with the rest of their stack and is the Yugo of their product line. Step into their class leading midrange and high end and if you want flash you had better open up Ft Knox. They use form factor SSD which is flash, they call it flash but everybody knows and admits (except those who don't have other options) it is encumbered by the form factor, storage subsystem, etc unlike IBM's FlashSystems which uses DIMM style Flash Modules that are purpose built. This EMC SSD flash can cost you upwards of $75K per TB for the mid-range & high-end. Guess who loves their flash?!

    Good old HP and their 3PAR 7450 is yet another form factor SSD flash based product that uses 3.5” SLC based or 2.5” MLC based SSD. MLC or consumer grade flash which is cheap for them to produce presumably to drive their profits while selling you a swan song of performance putting your data at risk. A simply Google search on MLC vs eMLC vs SLC will show where MLC rates significantly lower than the others. People are moving away from SLC and settling on eMLC as the balance of performance, reliability, density and cost. And Dell – the spokesperson who said when our RoCE product comes out in a few months it will kick the 840’s butt. IBM is coming out with the FlashSystem 880 soon that will have 1 billion IOPS with latency as low as 25 nanoseconds – trust me, I said “soon”.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why ask the competition?

      BTW you're wrong, 3PAR uses both 2.5" and 3.5" SLC and eMLC drives (not consumer grade MLC or TLC) and it has field data on all deployed 3PARs to prove both performance and flash longevity. 3PAR also includes flash specific caching, wear levellng, sparing and inbuilt wear gauges for all flash media and the 7450 fully integrates fully with the rest of the 3PAR lineup without the need for a external virtualization appliance to supply data services. When IBM stop trying solve every problem in their fragmented lineup with SVC and begin selling eMLC at non SLC prices then they may have some success.

      Although I do agree the premise of requesting competing vendors to comment on IBM products was pointless.

      1. Datalas

        Re: Why ask the competition?

        I actually loved seeing someone other than myself asking the competition to comment. As I am aware of the other vendors products seeing what they choose to talk about becomes significant to me. As

        The Register" allowed IBM to rebut comments I thought it was a very valuable use of my time.

        The only think I with "The Register" would have done is force IBM to fully qualify the statement that their new array has which specific data services as the other vendors seem to think there are shortcomings worth pointing out which the IBM rebuttal did not specifically address.

        A version of Consumer reports chart of features would have been a nice graphic to have.

  3. PowerMan@thinksis

    Why ask the competition? -more-

    The article fails to capture the essence of IBM’s FlashSystems products made up of x10, x20 and 840 models where x = 7 or 8. These products are the “Beast” or the 600 HP engine in a Ford Mustang. You enable all of the Advanced Copy Services (ACS) or the “Beauty” when you pair it with a SVC, V7000 or V5000 products. This gives you “Beauty and the Beast” – Clever huh? I thought of it myself ☺. The article presents the idea of SVC as simply adding cost. You need to take a look again at what SVC is. Unlike EMC’s vPlex which is about locking you in to there products, SVC frees you from all storage vendors. It is storage agnostic. Manage virtually any storage that is Fibre Channel – IBM or not. Manage just a portion of it. Bring in a SVC with a storage refresh and place the old storage behind the SVC and now you have flexibility to not only move data from old to new but also you can extend the life of that old storage. If the SVC which is an enterprise class product is too expensive then look at the V5000 or V7000 which is mid-range. Put the minimum number of disks in and you can still manage external storage to include FlashSystems.

  4. PowerMan@thinksis

    Why ask the competition? -finally-

    The cost of IBM’s FlashSystems is such that customers should now start considering buying it as primary storage. Why would you not size for capacity? When a 1U, 30 lb, 300 Watt, 24 TB, 25 microsecond, 500K+ IOPS FlashSystem 820 has as many IOPS as ~1550 HDD’s in a EMC vMAX. To the comment about cost of SVC + IBM Flash what do you think is cheaper – a few RU of Flash sized to the capacity needed behind a virtualization engine delivering the ACS? Eliminate I/O from the equation. SVC adds around 100 microseconds to each I/O. When you have products with latency as low as 15 and 25 microseconds adding 100 us really isn’t bad now is it – oh my, my latency is 150 or even 250 us. You have to give EMC, HP and Dell something to criticize since they typically claim latency <1ms. Hmm, if the Chevy Camaro could produce 600 HP or more like the Ford Mustang don’t you think they would claim it? When they can’t they say “who really needs that much HP when the speed limit is just 55 mph”. Bringing it back to storage they will claim that customers just want to use flash for tiering – yeah right, because that is all your storage is really good at.

    To finish up on the 840. Josh Goldstein doesn’t know what he is talking about. I have 12 significant enhancements tohe 840 which is an enterprise product offering up to 48 TB in 2U at roughly 75 lb and 625 Watts. It is fully hot swappable with no single point of failure. It has up to 16 Fibre ports and supports FC, FCoE and IB. That capacity equates to 1 PB of pure Beast in a 42U rack. After racking, to begin the configuration until you have storage presented for use it will take less than 5 minutes. Augment existing SAN storage such as HDS, EMC, NetApp, Compellent or IBM with a 820 or 840. Zone a portion to use for enhanced Read performance. Virtualize the rest and present storage to databases, logs, VDI – everything because it is less expensive and the numbers make sense when customers put their Ford vs Chevy biases down to hear the message.

  5. Matt Bryant Silver badge

    Wow! FUDfest 2014!

    Certainly a novel approach to an article - simply trawl the vendors for their PoVs and not offer any analysis.

    Whilst it is fun to watch the Elmers spewing their bile, the first thing to bear in mind is all these guys (and that includes the IBM responses and Mr IBM Marketing Drone PowerMan) is that what you need to do is look at your requirement and THEN ask questions. The competition will love to compare the 840 to real arrays as then they can point out all the features they say their array gives you but the 840 does not - all fine if you actually need those features, but "feature-sell" if you do not.

    I've used the TMS RamSAN devices on hp-ux RAC clusters as simple, superfast solutions, with a TMS system per node to provide direct flash. That is because the old TMS devices were "dumb" flash. They were definitely not smart arrays. The new IBM 840 seems to be more of the same - a dumb flash device - as it seems to require SVC to do anything smart. So, if your requirement is just local, superfast flash for an application, then it would seem a viable option, and IBM will probably price it competitively, but if what you actually need is a tiered array with a flash tier then the 840 does not seem to be the right option, even with SVC.

    So, before you speak to IBM or the competition (and, TBH, just avoid PowerMan completely) work out what you actually NEED in your environment to make your applications work, not what the salesgrunts want to sell you.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Wow! FUDfest 2014!

      So, before you speak to IBM or the competition (and, TBH, just avoid PowerMan completely) work out what you actually NEED in your environment to make your applications work, not what the salesgrunts want to sell you.


      You'd have thought someone writing about storage, especialy when talking in comparitive terms, might have included some useful advice like that in the article, instead of what this article contains.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Wow! FUDfest 2014!

      The only thing I wouldn't agree on is the assertion that 840 with Flash is not the right option. It can be, but it depends on what your requirements are.

      The best thing about the Flashsystem (and this is to credit TMS, not IBM) is the fact that it does nothing but provide the lowest latency possible, with no unnecessary add-ons to slow it down. If IBM had developed this from scratch they would have ruined it with features just like all of the competition would have. Not everyone needs replication or snapshots or thin provisioning or dedupe or the rest, so why would they buy something which does all of these things but adds to latency?

      The question to ask all vendors is how much latency is added by putting it behind an SVC, or within an array, or even within an SSD? And don't trust what the salesman says, especially when they're talking about someone else's product. Get a demo. Get a PoC. Get some bloody evidence. And ignore benchmarks, most of which are done on systems you can't afford, or with 100% cache hits or whatever.

    3. PowerMan@thinksis

      Re: Wow! FUDfest 2014!

      @Matt_Bryant I think you are the pot calling the kettle black. I am not a drone but a fan of technology that works and delivers value. Products I believe in and that solve problems. When understood and not using superficial comparisons to the competition like a x86 server is the same as a Power server or VMware is the same as PowerVM/Power Hypervisor. ie a server is a server and virtualization is virtualization. When you know how to exploit Power servers, hypervisor and thus virtualization and storage like the 840 then you see how a workload can do more with (far) less, faster and more reliably. So Matt_Bryant, you can attack me if you like as I have watched your behavior on these forums for years and that is your MO. The facts are what they are and sometimes when people speak them they are truth and not marketing speak or bile as you so eloquently state.

      1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

        Re: PowerFUD Re: Wow! FUDfest 2014!

        Whatever. Shall we compare? Me - "look for the features that suit your requirement"; you - "IBM 840 is the best, ignore everyone else and only talk to your IBM rep." Yeah, just so similar.

        1. PowerMan@thinksis

          Here we go again - PowerFUD Wow! FUDfest 2014!

          Actually, if you read my first postings I gave credit to several vendors such as Pure Storage and HDS. They do things differently but viable options. Even though I'm not a fan of EMC you cannot overlook their place in the industry or success and I said as much. I think you confused me with the "Anonymous Coward" posting. I am comfortable in your knowing who I am and what I do. I stand behind what I say. Admittedly, I make mistakes and have opportunities to learn and grow - that is life.

          If we had the benefit of a whiteboard I would show you the benefits and ease of it all. I approach solutions looking to provide the following: reliability, flexibility, scalability and performance at the desired price point just like we all look for as consumers. Unlike many vendors who try to lock in customers to products I think we should give them maximum flexibility. When we do, customers embrace both the technology and the seller for having the credibility to do so. It is too bad if you have been burned by IBM or some overzealous sales people. I am a technical seller and manage our Power practice at a IBM partner. I'm here because I love my job - like a pro athlete who gets paid. If I didn't I would go elsewhere.

  6. ben_myers

    What in hell is an SVC?

    What in hell is an SVC? In English please!

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

      Re: ben_myers Re: What in hell is an SVC?

      In this case it's an IBM appliance ( that you stick in front of your different arrays and other storage goodies and the SVC allows you to pool it and carve it up as you like (within limits). The advantages are easy moving of data between different storage devices and tiers "transparently" and centralised presentation of multiple and different storage devices, and the SVC can handle replication between totally different devices that may not even have a built-in replication capability. The downside is everything - all SAN traffic - has to go via the SVC node(s), potentially creating one mother of a bottleneck. Oh, and the fact the licenses involved ain't cheap!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What in hell is an SVC?

      IBM SAN Volume Controller

  7. Nick Sundby

    FUDtastic article

    Asking the competition to comment seems like an invitation to spread FUD, something that we have too much of already. Not sure if this approach leads to the clarity that Chris is known for.

    quote: "Putting the array behind SVC adds more cost to an already costly flash solution, while also reducing the response time benefit of having the all-flash array."

    The SVC is a high-performance flash-optimised unit and would add little to latency. What is does add is a full suite of data management capabilities, something that is weak or missing in many flash-based solutions. Also, an existing SVC user could drop in the flash array without affecting the established data protection, replication or provisioning processes. It just runs faster. For most users, the manageability benefit is the key factor in getting the best from the flash kit.

  8. abufrejoval

    Would have been nice to have SkyEra join in

    For me they are the company which is one step ahead at least conceptually.

  9. SkipBaconatVI

    Faster flash arrays are no magic wand

    All-flash arrays undoubtedly represent a major evolution in storage technology, and the finger-pointing and name calling by their vendors is a source of cheap entertainment (likely the only cheap part of the whole story!) But, as with so many past technology evolutions, the vendor focus on device features and functions distracts from the much bigger customer challenge – how to design, deploy, and support compute systems combining multiple types and flavors of devices from multiple vendors, while optimizing availability, performance, and cost. The emergence of faster flash arrays doesn’t magically solve this “systems integrator dilemma”; to the contrary, some of the inherent technology characteristics, especially at this relatively early stage of market maturity, make these challenges harder, not easier.

    Customers looking to adopt all-flash arrays have to address 3 primary challenges:

    1. Developing accurate cost/benefit analysis

    2. Validating vendor claims

    3. Delivering production performance

    Skip Bacon, CTO, Virtual Instruments

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