IBM FlashSystem: Feeding the Hogs

IBM has announced its new FlashSystem family following on from the acquisition of Texas Memory Systems (RAMSAN) late last year.

The first thing that interests me is where FlashSystem products are likely to play in 2013 and this graphic is intended to suggest some options. Over time the blue ‘candidate’ box is expected to stretch downwards.

Resource hogs

Flash Candidates2

For the full IBM FlashSystem family you can check out the product page at http://www.ibm.com/storage/flash

Probably the most popular product will be the FlashSystem 820, they key characteristics of which are as follows:

Usable capacity options with RAID5

  • 10.3 TB per FlashSystem
  • 20.6 TB per FlashSystem
  • Up to 865 TB usable in a single 42u rack

Latency

  • 110 usec read latency
  • 25 usec write latency

IOPS

  • Up to 525,000 4KB random read
  • Up to 430,000 4KB 70/30 read/write
  • Up to 280,000 4KB random write

Throughput

  • up to 3.3 GB/sec FC
  • up to 5 GB/sec IB

Physical

  • 4 x 8 GB/sec FC ports
  • or 4 x 40 Gbps QDR Infiniband ports
  • 300 VA
  • 1,024 BTU/hr
  • 13.3 Kg
  • 1 rack unit

High Availability including 2-Dimensional RAID

  • Module level Variable Stripe RAID
  • System level RAID5 across flash modules
  • Hot swap modules
  • eMLC (10 x the endurance of MLC)

For those who like to know how things plug together under the covers, the following three graphics take you through conceptual and physical layouts.

FlashSystem Logical

FlashSystem

2D Flash RAID

With IBM’s Variable Stripe RAID, if one die fails in a ten-chip stripe, only the failed die is bypassed, and then data is restriped across the remaining nine chips.

Integration with IBM SAN Volume Controller (and Storwize V7000)

The IBM System Storage Interoperation Center is showing these as supported with IBM POWER and IBM System X (Intel) servers, including VMware 5.1 support.

The IBM FlashSystem is all about being fast and resilient. The system is based on FPGA and hardware logic so as to minimize latency. For those customers who want advanced software features like volume replication, snapshots (ironically called FlashCopy), thin provisioning, broader host support etc, the best way to achieve all of that is by deploying FlashSystem 820 behind a SAN Volume Controller (or Storwize V7000). This can also be used in conjunction with Easy Tier, with the SVC/V7000 automatically promoting hot blocks to the FlashSystem.

I’ll leave you with this customer quote:

“With some of the other solutions we tested, we poked and pried at them for weeks to get the performance where the vendors claimed it should be.  With the RAMSAN we literally just turned it on and that’s all the performance tuning we did.  It just worked out of the box.”

Feeding the hogs—feeding the hogs
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6 Responses

  1. How much does SVC slow down the 820?

  2. Take a look at this SVC proof of concept (Project Quicksilver) that IBM ran back in 2008, “a sustained rate of over a million IOPS with a response time of under one millisecond”. as explained by Tony Pearson on his blog. “IBM used 4 TB of Solid State Disk (SSD) behind its IBM SAN Volume Controller (SVC) technology to achieve this amazing result.” So the short answer is that SVC doesn’t have to slow it down at all : )

  3. […] my earlier post on Flash called Feeding The Hogs I focused on the traditional sweet spots for Flash, but what I’m hearing out in the world […]

  4. We were advised against putting FlashSystem 820 under V7000 as “V7000 is too slow in SVC role for 820″. This was said at local IBM FlashSystem 820 presentation (for resellers). Your opinion please?

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