Earlier this month SanDisk announced InfiniFlash, their first entry into the All-Flash storage array (AFA) market.  I briefly blogged on the market impacts over on my company blog at Langton Blue; here I’m going to look a bit more into the specifics of the platform.

First of all, let’s look at the detail here.  From a hardware perspective, there are three configurations being offered, the IF100, IF500 and IF700.  The products are differentiated by their application support – the IF100 supports raw flash; the IF500 deploys with Ceph and the IF700 runs SanDisk’s ION Accelerator software.  The platform offers up to 512TB in a 3U enclosure, which appears to be a single node configuration.  Each node is capable of 780,000 IOPS with a throughput of 7GB/s although the read/write ratios and how those IOPS are generated is not disclosed. Nodes run Ubuntu Linux (14.04)  and connectivity is via iSCSI, with the usual REST-based APIs, support for S3 and Swift.  Data protection is provided by snapshots, replicas or erasure encoding, which is presumably delivered through either Ceph or ION Accelerator.  A single cluster can scale to 15PB, which at the quoted $2/GB would cost a cool $30 million.

SanDisk are claiming they have created a new category of device, fitting between traditional high end disk and all flash arrays.  This is shown in the IDC commissioned report (available here) and is demonstrated in the diagram shown.  This assumption is based on creating a “capacity flash” model that delivers higher performance than the 5-20ms achieved by HDD arrays (IDC figures not mine) and the sub-millisecond achieved by all-flash arrays.

Now, I have no doubt that creating a scale-out flash tier at a reasonable price is a good fit for high-end analytics compared to using an HDD-based array.  However I would suggest that not all of the all-flash vendors are looking to deliver super-high end performance.  Companies like Tegile, Kaminario and HP 3PAR all offer products in the $2/GB range and are starting to use 2TB flash drives, albeit with data optimisation features installed.  Although they may not (yet) scale to the multi-terabyte capacity, they certainly have the facility to do so.

The Architect’s View

InfiniFlash is certainly an interesting move from SanDisk.  The ability to deploy 512TB of flash in 3U is quite an achievement and puts them well ahead of the competition.  The company have looked to find a differentiated market and high performance analytics is a good fit.  However I’d suggest that the boundaries between the high-end all flash vendors and SanDisk is more blurred than they think and it would be relatively easy for some vendors to scale down to SanDisk’s capacities.   The differentiator is of course price.  Can any vendor match that offered by SanDisk – it’s unlikely I think.  So, this puts the company in an interesting position.  At this stage they are not competing with their array-selling customers.  However if they made an acquisition, such as buying Violin Memory, this would provide them more features and capabilities to move out of their initial niche.  The all-flash market is going to get fiercely competitive in the next 24 months; only a luck few will survive.

Related Links

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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Copyright (c) 2007-2018 – Post #5749 – Chris M Evans, first published on https://blog.architecting.it, do not reproduce without permission. Photo credit iStock. 

Written by Chris Evans

With 30+ years in IT, Chris has worked on everything from mainframe to open platforms, Windows and more. During that time, he has focused on storage, developed software and even co-founded a music company in the late 1990s. These days it's all about analysis, advice and consultancy.