Neil Salamack

Don’t Send a Mid-Market Flash Appliance to do an Enterprise Flash Array’s Job

Blog Post created by Neil Salamack on Feb 28, 2017

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No, it’s not semantics or splitting hairs. The flash storage market offers your business a startling array of solutions ranging from low-cost commodity appliances to enterprise class heavy hitters with seemingly limitless speed and scale.  The truth is that many of these solutions have very different capabilities.  The problem for consumers occurs when flash vendors, in their quest to penetrate new market segments, promote messages that don’t exactly align with product capability. As consumers, this immediately gets our attention as the next best thing since sliced bread.. “It’s inexpensive, it scales, it’s the fastest, it’s the easiest, oh and you should deploy it for every-and-any application”.  The old adage, “If it sounds too good to be true, it is“ certainly applies to the flash storage market these days. The fact of the matter is that many entry and mid-market flash arrays are not designed for mission-critical, enterprise class workloads.  These are products are more accurately classified as “appliances” instead of “arrays” because they are designed with an emphasis on low-cost and support applications that are best described business-critical. Now I must point out that there’s nothing wrong with using flash appliances for what they are designed for. But the buyer should be cautious when a vendor is pushing a solution like that for enterprise workloads, especially where the value of the data is mission –critical.

 

What about Availability? Why do Flash Vendors Shy away from Availability Commitments?

While we’re on the topic, as a person long employed by storage vendors, I remember when the industry used to spend a great deal of time promoting high availability and “hardened” data storage solutions.  Flash vendors have moved away from this topic in their marketing messages for good reason, hardening flash storage for the enterprise requires a deep investment in flash research and development.  It’s much easier for a flash appliance vendor to focus on speed and simplicity. Unfortunately, there has been a lot of press surrounding high profile vendors and flash outages at major customers.  On the flip side there is good news for businesses that don’t want to take that risk. Hitachi Data Systems is the only flash vendor that offers a 100% Data Availability Guarantee .  Hitachi stands behind their enterprise flash offerings because they are a primary technology vendor with over 350 flash-related patents.

 

So what’s the difference between an “Enterprise-Class Flash Array” and a “Mid-Market Flash Appliance”

At the core, the definitions below summarize the main differences between these two solutions;

 

“Mid-Market Flash Appliance” – A flash storage solution based on commodity SSD, and designed for mid-market, business-critical workloads.

 

“Enterprise Class Flash Array” – A flash storage solution based on specially designed architecture and flash
modules to deliver premium availability and performance for mission-critical applications. This solution is designed for mid-market on up to enterprise-class workloads.

 

To demonstrate some of the details, let’s take Hitachi Data Systems VSP F1500 all-flash array and compare it to a popular Mid-Market flash appliance offering.

 

The table below illustrates the differences between these solutions

 

Hitachi VSP F1500

Enterprise-Class Flash Array

Mid-Market Flash Appliance

Enterprise-Class Benefits

Use Cases

Business-Critical and Mission- Critical
  (ie. DB, SAP Hana, Microsoft apps, Large scale Virtualization, HPC,
  Analytics, Energy,  Life-Science,
  Cloud, IoT, Mainframe)

Business-Critical (ie Microsoft apps,
  desktop virtualization, mid-scale virtualization

Hitachi Data Systems VSP F1500 is an
  enterprise-class “hardened” all-flash array that can handle both
  business-critical and mission-critical use cases.

Flash

Proprietary flash module (FMD)

Commodity SSD

Hitachi FMD is 4X-5X faster than
  commodity SSD. The FMD also performs 2X data reduction which frees up the
  array processor for increased performance

Core Design Principals

“Enterprise-Class” Availability and
  Performance. Designed for mid-market and enterprise

Inexpensive and easy to deploy.
  Designed for entry to mid-market

Different tools designed for different
  jobs

Clustering

Yes

No, or limited

Enterprise solutions offer clustering
  for increased availability and performance

Management

Single pane of glass supporting
  multiple flash arrays and clusters

Management primarily for individual arrays

Hitachi Data Systems VSP F1500 is
  managed by SVOS ( Storage Virtualization Operating System) which manages
  multiple flash arrays in single and cluster configurations

True Active-Active

Yes

No

Active/Active “always enabled”
  eliminates  queuing bottlenecks and
  inconsistent performance

VmWare VVol Support

Yes

No

Mid-Market appliance lags in
  virtualization feature support

User Agreement mission critical apps
  disclaimer

No

Yes

Hitachi Data Systems VSP F1500 is
  hardened to support the most mission-critical of applications

Quality of Service (intelligent flash)

Yes

No

When necessary, Hitachi Data Systems
  VSP F1500 flash modules prioritize application response over data reduction
  which decreases application latency

Integrated Cloud /  Object Storage Connectivity

Yes

No

Hitachi Data Systems VSP F1500 offers integration
  with
Hitachi Content Platform

Availability Guarantee

Yes

No

Hitachi Data Systems VSP F1500 offers a
 
100% Availability Guarantee , flash appliance vendors don’t

Performance up to 4.8 million IOPs

Yes

No

Hitachi Data Systems VSP F1500 scales
  up and out beyond any mid-market flash appliance

 

Caveat Emptor – Read the License and Usage Agreements
So where does a “good enough” flash appliance not become “good enough”?  The answer to that is where downtime could threaten your business or open up liability.  Business today is all about reducing liability and mitigating risks.  I was browsing through the user agreement of a popular flash appliance vendor and noticed a few caveats that really alarmed me.  The wording mentioned that the vendor does not recommend that their solution be used in nuclear energy or critical life-science/life dependent applications.  What I read between the lines is that this vendor’s flash solution is not “hardened”. So the question you should be asking yourself is why you should trust it with your mission-critical applications even if you’re not in these industries?

 

As a Hitachi Data Systems employee, I will tell you that Hitachi Japan is a major supplier of nuclear energy, medical imaging and commercial transportation equipment.

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Flash arrays like the VSP F1500 are designed to support these life critical applications.  In fact Hitachi VSP flash arrays are integrated into transportation and critical manufacturing applications which need to deliver high performance 24/7 without fail.  Your business’s data is just as important to Hitachi Data Systems as it is to you. Isn't that the way it should be?

 

For More Information, Check out:

100% Availability Guarantee

Take a No Compromise Approach to All-Flash Storage

Hitachi VSP flash arrays

Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy

Hitachi Healthcare

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