Following on from HDS and NetApp posting news about their Storage Performance Council SPC-1 benchmark results, we’ve seen another two vendors perform tests that have quickly trumped NetApp in the price/performance category. Current top spot now goes to X-IO Technologies and their new ISE 800 All-Flash Array, which achieves a $0.32/SPC IOP figure, some 40% lower than that achieved by NetApp. We’ll come back to X-IO in a moment, but as an aside, you have to feel a little bit sorry for Dell, who posted their figures a week later and only achieved second place with $0.37/SPC IOP, although that still beats NetApp by a long way.
X-IO Technologies was spun-out from Seagate as the Seagate Advanced Storage Group in 2002 and went through acquisition by Xiotech before becoming independent again and moving to Colorado Springs (see more history details here). The company has been selling the ISE or Intelligent Storage Element for some time, based on the ability to more accurately manage the failure modes of hard drives through custom controller microcode. The product is now in the third generation (G3). In many instances when a disk fails, only part of the surface of a platter may become inaccessible and there’s no reason why the remainder of the device can’t continue to be used. The result of this careful drive management gives X-IO the ability to provide warranties of five years on each appliance, with what is known as “zero touch operational simplicity” – you simply install and leave the box to run.
For those of us from traditional storage array backgrounds, this “set and forget” mentality may be a little hard to swallow. Surely failing drives have to be replaced? Well, there’s more to getting high availability out of a storage array than simply deploying clever microcode. Many of the longevity benefits come from hardware engineering to fix some of the common problems experienced with mechanical spinning media. For more background information I recommend watching the X-IO presentations from Storage Field Day 5, in which some of the specifics are discussed.
So what about performance? How can ISE appliances out-perform traditional arrays and still claim to deliver 100% performance at 100% capacity? This is where clever software comes in, with features like Intelligent Adaptive Flash (IAF). IAF allows volumes to either in a hybrid mode (using flash and HDD) through a feature called Continuous Adaptive Data Placement (CADP) or to be pinned to a tier of storage depending on whether the requirements of the volume are either high or low performance (flash or HDD respectively) – a feature called Media Affinity. The result is that the new G3 ISE 780 can achieve 300,000 IOPS (max) or 140,000 IOPS doing “real world” OLTP workloads. The all-flash ISE 800 Series achieves up to 400,000/260,000 IOPS and can deliver consistent sub-millisecond latency.
In the past, the achilles heel of ISE has been features. We all know that going forward, features such as data optimisation and data protection are going to be high on the list of potential purchasers. With the G3 release, ISE gains thin provisioning, QoS, active/active synchronous mirroring, with a roadmap for additional support in the future. For virtualisation, there’s support for VMware VASA and for OpenStack a Cinder driver.
The Architect’s View
The storage industry is changing. This statement should come as nothing new to the readers of this blog. The old guard of big iron with complex provisioning & management is being chipped away by new players with innovative and simpler solutions (don’t take my word for it check out what Barron’s has to say). In the past, X-IO may have been overlooked because the products were deficient in certain features and to be frank, product marketing wasn’t good enough. Things seem to have changed for the company and as end users look to adopt hyper-converged models, eliminating storage altogether, then products like X-IO will stand out because they can deliver dedicated storage without the need for storage skills. The challenge for the future will be in keeping the features coming as the platform evolves.
- HDS Top With Latest SPC-1 All-Flash Benchmark
- X-IO Launches All Flash Array Storage Solution, ISE 800 Series (X-IO Press Release, 10 March 2015)
- X-IO Presents at Storage Field Day 5 (Tech Field Day Website)
- X-IO ISE 820 All-Flash Array SPC-1 Benchmark Executive Summary (Storage Performance Council Website)
A Langton Blue authored paper on flash is available (for a charge) here – https://www.langtonblue.com/product/technology-report-flash-in-the-enterprise-2015/
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Disclaimer: I was personally invited to attend Storage Field Day 5, with the event team covering my travel and accommodation costs. However I was not compensated for my time. I am not required to blog on any content; blog posts are not edited or reviewed by the presenters or Tech Field Day team before publication.
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