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EMC's flashy XtremIO? I Xpect it will be great... in a few years

All-flash arrays will work wonders - when we all have all-flash storage environments

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Storagebod So we finally have general availability for XtremIO – not that general is much different from directed availability: it is still going to be pretty hard to get hold of an XtremIO if you want one.

And that is of course a big *if*: do you really need an all-flash array? Can you use it? Is it just going to be a sledge-hammer to crack a performance nut?

Firstly, I think that you have to point out that presently even under GA, the XtremIO array has some pretty horrible official caveats; no guaranteed non-disruptive upgrade, lack of replication services and the like mean that, in the opinion of this writer, this is nowhere near ready to replace the normal use case for an enterprise array.

Add in today’s fairly limited scalability and it is obvious that this is not a VMAX replacement today. So will it be in future?

At the moment, that is pretty unclear. We’re due a tick in the tick-tock of VMAX releases – I’d say EMCWorld 2014 is going to be all about the next generation of the VMAX.

But what about the XtremIO in general?

Is it a good idea or even a good implementation of a good idea? It’s odd because looking at the architecture, it feels like what would have happened if XIV had built an all-flash array as opposed to the spinning-rust array that they have.

Much of what we are coming to expect from a modern array from an architectural point-of-view is here: balanced i/o, no hot spots, no tuning, no tiering and minimal management. Yet without the aforementioned enterprise features such as replication, it all feels a bit undercooked.

And there is still the question as to where you are going to use an all-flash array; if I never see another presentation from a flash vendor that mentions VDI again, it’ll be too soon. Let’s just use our AF arrays as super-fast boot-drives!

So where else are you going to use it? Probably in the same place that you are already using hybrid arrays: to accelerate poorly performing applications. But do you need to keep all your data on an AFA and can you tier easily between multiple array types? You see, you need a capacity tier and you need data mobility – data has to flow. The hybrids have a distinct advantage here.

If you manage the data silos at the application layer, you might well find that you begin to lose the value of an all-flash array, as you’ll be moving data from the array to another array – doing more I/Os at the host level..

I’m intrigued to see how EMC and others begin to solve this problem because we are not looking at an all-flash data-storage environment for most people for some time.

Could we see clustering of XtremIO with other arrays? Or are we doomed to manage storage as silos forever?

I don’t see XtremIO as replacing the enterprise storage arrays anytime soon; I think the traditional EMC sales team has plenty of refresh opportunity for some time. ®

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