The last few weeks have seen a couple of important flash technology announcements. They are important as they bring two of the “Big 5/6” storage vendors up to speed in a market that is already pretty well occupied. Unfortunately all of these announcements are coupled with hyperbole, figure hiding and in some cases, bare-faced lies.
Let’s look first at NetApp’s announcement of their first all-flash array, the EF540. Here are some of the bold statements NetApp make:
In a move that extends its leadership in the industry…
With the strongest and broadest flash portfolio in the industry….
…is the industry’s first flash array to combine consistent extreme performance with enterprise-class high availability, reliability, manageability, and worldwide support.
Presumably, NetApp thought by adding “wordwide support” onto that last statement, people would believe they were the first to deliver all those other features too. We all know that all-flash arrays have been available for some time. Excluding the start-ups, who may not be able to provide world-wide support, we can reference the following:
- EMC all flash VNX – October 2011
- EMC has shipped all-flash VMAX – May 2011
- Hitachi all-flash VSP – November 2012
- IBM all-flash V7000 – June 2012
- 3Par StoreServ All-flash – July 2012
- Lefthand P4900 – February 2012
(above list updated with kind thanks to Calvin Zito)
Focusing more on the startups, I’ve discussed the players many times before. They are leading the market and purely by virtue of their startup nature may not be able to offer sales and support in every country, but if you don’t operate globally then who cares. In the NetApp announcement, reference is made to a product that will not ship for another 12 months. FlashRay seems to describe what NetApp would love to have announced now, but clearly doesn’t exist or isn’t ready (or they haven’t acquired the technology). This says that the EF540 is a a stopgap product, not a leadership position.
Then there’s EMC. Today the company announced the evolution of their server-based PCIe SSD cards, now branded as XtremSF. These appear to be rebranded Virident cards (as highlighted by Chris Mellor), with EMC software. The presented comparisons use the lower specified Fusion-IO ioDrive2 1.2TB MLC pitched against the top end XtremSF 2.2TB model. Naturally, EMC’s figures look best, but it would have been more transparent to compare the two devices with similar capacities and using the same bus architecture. For flash, more capacity means more performance, so the Fusion-IO ioDrive2 Duo has more throughput and lower latency, particularly on random writes. Take a look at the “entry level” XtremSF 550GB model and we see this is outperformed by the nearest ioDrive2 model (785GB) in every respect.
EMC also quietly dropped Thunder, their “server-side” cache product, through what appears to be lack of interest (at least Mark Twomey was honest enough to admit this). However EMC made plenty of pronouncements for that technology, but they were wrong – sometimes innovation is misconceived. NetApp need to remember that when announcing a product that will ship in 2014 (assuming it doesn’t have the Spinnaker issues).
The Architect’s View
The marketing message has reached new levels of absurdity, almost matching those we see from the music industry with a new album released. Unfortunately many customers will take the big boys’ statements on face value. Please, always remember – Caveat Emptor.
- NetApp Exec Shakeup Names New Strategy, Technology Chiefs (CRN)
- NetApp Takes Build-It, Not Buy-It, Approach To FlashRay Flash Storage Strategy (CRN)
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