Feeds

How much disruptive innovation does your flash storage rig really need?

Random IO? Or just plain random?

Remote control for virtualized desktops

Our technology world is fascinated by disruptive innovation. Every tech startup says its new technology is disruptive and therefore it is bound to succeed.

So it is with all-flash arrays which can answer data requests in microseconds, instead of the milliseconds needed by disk drive arrays.

Startups such as Pure Storage, SolidFire and Violin say they have best-of-breed products in the networked storage array category because they are all-flash with software designed from the ground up to control their arrays.

They provide flash speed at roughly the cost of the fastest performing disks, the 15,000rpm drives. These are many times slower than flash because of their need to move the read/write heads across the surface of the disk platters to the right track and then wait for the right sector to appear under the head as the disk rotates.

If you can't beat them then join them, say the disk-drive array vendors, who have all put SSDs in disk drive slots to create faster reacting storage.

Dell, EMC, Fujitsu, HDS, HP, IBM, NetApp and others have all done this, with some such as EMC and NetApp introducing flash caches as well to speed data on its way.

Not so fast (literally), say the all-flash array startups. The mainstream vendors' arrays with flash storage inside still use disk IO-based control software, legacy stacks of software that assume data is stored in sectors in tracks on platters of spinning disk drives.

"Our software," they will say, "has been designed from the get-go to use flash and be aware that it wears out with repeated writing, unlike disk. It minimises the number of writes by coalescing them and deduplication to get rid of redundant data."

The mainstream disk-drive arrays can't do deduplication at all, or as well, because their disk drives are too slow for all the mapping hash table look-ups needed.

Their disk-based software stacks aren't as efficient at reducing the number of writes, and the upper- and mid-level controller software has to have extra steps inserted in lower-layer code to make the flash storage look like disk to the upper layers.

Lean and mean

This makes the IO processing slower. "Our software is leaner and more efficient," say the vendors.

That this is true is shown by suppliers such as EMC and IBM buying their own all-flash-array startups: XtremIO for EMC and TMS for IBM.

NetApp is developing its own all-flash array called FlashRay, but Dell, HDS and HP have chosen not to go this route. They rely instead on using all-flash array versions of their existing Compellent (Dell) and StoreServ (HP) arrays and saying "our software is good enough to drive the flash hardware effectively and efficiently".

HDS has a flash acceleration sub-system it has developed for its VSP and HUS VM arrays and is saying pretty much the same thing regarding its array controller software. But these three suppliers say something else as well: that their array controller software has a full set of data and array management features that the all-flash array startups don't have.

For example, their arrays can replicate data between them as a way of protecting against an array failure. They can take snapshots of data and store them as another way of protecting against data loss.

They have highly reliable software, strengthened by years of development, which enterprise customers can rely on to store their data safely. Their arrays have controller and other features to ensure there is no single point of failure.

The management facilities of their arrays are mature and well understood by customers and integrated into upper-level or overall IT management frameworks and with virtual server software domains.

This level of data protection and management maturity and integration is too valuable to be simply discarded because there is a new hot box on the street.

Certainly the new all-flash arrays are disruptive but so were Hovercraft and Segway scooters, and neither of these inventions turned out to have any lasting relevance. Innovation on its own is not sufficient to be disruptive. Simply being new is not enough.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
NSA SOURCE CODE LEAK: Information slurp tools to appear online
Now you can run your own intelligence agency
Azure TITSUP caused by INFINITE LOOP
Fat fingered geo-block kept Aussies in the dark
Yahoo! blames! MONSTER! email! OUTAGE! on! CUT! CABLE! bungle!
Weekend woe for BT as telco struggles to restore service
Cloud unicorns are extinct so DiData cloud mess was YOUR fault
Applications need to be built to handle TITSUP incidents
Stop the IoT revolution! We need to figure out packet sizes first
Researchers test 802.15.4 and find we know nuh-think! about large scale sensor network ops
Turnbull should spare us all airline-magazine-grade cloud hype
Box-hugger is not a dirty word, Minister. Box-huggers make the cloud WORK
SanDisk vows: We'll have a 16TB SSD WHOPPER by 2016
Flash WORM has a serious use for archived photos and videos
Astro-boffins start opening universe simulation data
Got a supercomputer? Want to simulate a universe? Here you go
Microsoft adds video offering to Office 365. Oh NOES, you'll need Adobe Flash
Lovely presentations... but not on your Flash-hating mobe
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing and building an open ITOA architecture
Learn about a new IT data taxonomy defined by the four data sources of IT visibility: wire, machine, agent, and synthetic data sets.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
10 threats to successful enterprise endpoint backup
10 threats to a successful backup including issues with BYOD, slow backups and ineffective security.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
10 ways wire data helps conquer IT complexity
IT teams can automatically detect problems across the IT environment, spot data theft, select unique pieces of transaction payloads to send to a data source, and more.