This morning EMC created the Enterprise FLASH Solid State Disk (SSD) market. It didn't exist when you went to bed last night but it did when you got up this morning.
Before today's Wall Street Journal article FLASH in the enterprise was just an idea, now it’s state of the art high performance storage technology available in volume for DMX-4 customers first.
This isn’t a case of just attaching new drive technology to an FC interface. In order to gain the full performance benefit from FLASH EMC developed SSD specific algorithms for Enginuity and yes Virtual Provisioning along with all the usual features (SRDF, TimeFinder and so on) are fully supported.
Today's announcement is the result of more than 18 months of engineering effort, software development and a whole lot of testing on EMC’s part. The technology has been refined to EMC’s specifications, it works, it's ready and after years of evolution enterprise FLASH now becomes a reality.
Product Name: Tier 0/EMC Enterprise FLASH Drive
Manufacturer: STEC Inc.
FLASH Technology Type: Single Level Cell Persistent NAND
Capacity: 73GB or 146GB
Platform: Symmetrix DMX-4
Enginuity Support: Fully supported via custom algorithms
The bottom line:
This is an industry first and a high impact change to how people think about tiered storage. FC drives are fast but in comparison to array cache they’re hopelessly outmatched. In high transaction workload environments a tier of ultra low latency Single Level Cell (SLC) FLASH between cache and Tier 1 spinning disk is not a bonus but an absolute requirement.
Currently available only for EMC Symmetrix today marks the rise of Tier 0 and we'll never think about latency the same way again.
Watch the sky for updates from Chuck and Barry when the East Coast wakes up. Though Mother Nature has decided to dump a few feet of snow on New England today I'm certain they'll have something to say but until then hang out here as I'll be updating this entry Wiki style.
EMC expects the flash drives will be bought by large financial institutions, which may handle hundreds of transactions a second while trading currencies or authorizing credit cards, said David Donatelli, president of EMC's storage division.
Many of those organizations buy more disks than they need and store just a little information on each to achieve high input and output of data. Mr. Donatelli said a typical system containing four flash drives, in addition to a large number of disk drives, would cost about 10% more overall.
He said EMC will use a type of flash called single-level cell rather than the multilevel cell flash used in consumer devices. Single-level is much faster but costs more.
In 2006 EMC’s exhaustive research into the viability of SSDs for enterprise workloads wrapped up. Its findings are easily summarised.
-High end SLC FLASH technology is right for the job.
-Its time is now.
-The clock for hardware/microcode integration, testing, optimisation, more testing, qualification, even more testing and volume shipment to customers is running so lets get moving.
Last year as this was getting a final coat of polish some of us watched with interest as a lot of people looked at the drawbacks of consumer focused Multi Level Cell NAND/NOR FLASH (MLC) and wrote off the idea of Enterprise FLASH Drives entirely.
MLC is a low cost high density solution for the consumer market optimised for sequential read performance. It’s a write once read many technology by design and well suited to price sensitive areas but the idea that someone was ever going to use such a technology for Enterprise applications is ludicrous. MLC for its density advantages (Typically storing two/four/or more bits per cell in the future) suffers a drastically reduced lifecycle as a result. While acceptable for your laptop or desktop MLC technologies would not survive in the face of the continuous battering they’d take from transaction workloads.
The EMC Enterprise FLASH Drive is a Single Level Cell based device capable of high speed random and sequential read write operations via parallel access. Couple that with the fact that It’s lifecycle is much much greater than MLC equivalents and it becomes the ideal candidate for enterprise applications.
While EMC’s image as a conservative company with an intense competitive streak has pretty much remained the same while the company itself has gone through numerous changes over the past 30 years. Back in 1981 EMC’s first product was a memory board for Prime systems, after a few years EMC had added products for IBM, HP, Wang and DEC customers and then spent most of the early 80’s trying not to get stepped on by those giants.
EMC first introduced SSD technology in 1987 with products for the minicomputer market. High speed memory emulating the disk drives of the day but offering 15 to 20 times the performance of their rotating counterparts. In 1988 the company shipped its Allegro and Orion SSD storage systems. Orion was SSD storage for the Mainframe, the product being so interesting that STK came calling to use it as a stop gap while they got their own offering ready.
In 1990 having established a foothold in the IBM dominated Mainframe world Orion quickly evolved. The illusion of SSDs falling away leaving only a large memory cache up front and RAID protected disks hanging off the back.
Sound familiar? It should. ;)
While a cached disk array was (And remains to this day) both economically and technically the most practical approach to the problems at hand, the idea behind SSD based storage systems was perfectly valid but the technology of the time just wasn't there yet. Two decades later it finally is.
The future has arrived.
--Links of Interest--
FSC CTO Joseph Reger predicted data centre flash drive take-up by 2010. EMC seems determined to prove him wrong. It's introducing data centre flash drives now...
...EMC has moved swiftly and decisively. This morning the enterprise disk drive market changed for ever.
You look at stuff like this, you know that it's important but you wonder if other people will get it the first time they hear it. Chris Mellor gets it, and he got it by doing his own research.
EMC announced a purpose-built enterprise flash drive that, externally, fits into the normal disk carriers of a DMX. From most aspects, it just looks like a disk drive, except for one important attribute: it delivers the about the same number of IOPs as roughly 30 standard 15K 300GB drives.
Not only that, from a customer application perspective, each IO has 1/10th the response time as any single or pooled disk drive can do.
Your mileage will vary but lets face it this doesn't need further comment.
Like a new island forming from the eruption of an undersea volcano, a new ultra-fast tier of storage is emerging in enterprise environments. The technology driving this sea change is flash memory.
They also shine a light on Virtual Provisioning for the DMX. What's the difference between Thin Provisioning and Virtual Provisioning? Thin Provisioning is a subset of Virtual Provisioning.
Virtual provisioning is a great new feature for Symmetrix DMX. EMC took time to do it right, integrating it into the system as a founda-tional feature to ease and speed provisioning across all tiers – even if it was not first to market. The savings and easier management will please DMX customers.
"We believe that flash-based solid state storage is a game changing technology and that STEC is at the forefront of the SSD market," said Brian Gallagher, senior vice president and general manager, EMC Storage Division. "Over the past year, EMC and STEC have collaborated to ensure that the Zeus-IOPS Fibre Channel drive meets the stringent quality, availability and reliability requirements of the enterprise storage market. The resulting integration of enterprise-class SSDs with the full breadth of Symmetrix DMX-4 features, capabilities and traditional disk drives will provide our customers with unprecedented levels of performance and energy efficiency for their most demanding applications."
This is a good white paper and gets into specifics.
Only 18 minutes long but well worth a listen. Dave talks about FLASH, Virtual Provisioning and lays some track for future product announcements.
I knew he was smart when he picked the Tier 0 strategy out of a Mark Lewis post.
We'll see how long I keep updating that page before I either get bored or can't keep up with the eleventy billion products the company now has.
I personally believe that Flash SSD technology will become ubiquitous in the not-so-distant future as prices decline and performance improves (thanks to Moore's Law) at rates unheard of in the entire history of the hard disk drive.
The final word on announce day goes to Barry as we close out this post nearly 22 hours from when I started it. To the Symmetrix team all that's left to be said is simple.