Huawei Develops Prime Fourth Generation All-Flash Array – The All-SSD Evolution

Huawei Develops Prime Fourth Generation All-Flash Array - The All-SSD Evolution

SSDs have become the subversive innovation in the enterprise-class storage market. The medium has gained much popularity since it started to appear in systems over 15 years ago, becoming the trend setter and direction of development. Analyst firms predict sales of SSDs will overtake HDDs after some 20 years of domination.

Contributed by Judy Qiu (IT Branding Dept., Huawei)

1. The first generation: SSD Raw

The first gen of SSDs were applied to enterprise storage back in 2001. After more than 15 years, one enterprise storage model after another has been derived from SSD, incorporating accelerations in read/write cache, storage tiering, and other mixed storage applications. Customers and vendors alike started to realize that such practices merely had SSDs serving as high-speed hard drives. In other words, SSDs were enhancing part of the layout with their higher performance. This meant systems had to orchestrate the use of both mediums, but the general design of hybrid systems were ineffective in bringing out the full potential of SSDs. The enterprise storage market embarked on a new round of innovation that would start to silence the 20-year domination of HHDs when the all-flash array (AFA) entered the scene.

AFAs use SSDs exclusively to fulfill all performance, capacity, and enterprise-class features in network-based enterprise storage systems. Not a single HDD is found in the newer designs. The drop in price and huge improvements in reliability of SSD since it came on the scene in addition to the enrichment of product models prompted mainstream vendors and dozens of start-ups to produce all-flash arrays. SSD is now in its fourth generation defined by the AFA revolution. Let’s take a look at the progressions, starting with the first gen and running through to SSD native designs.

Texas Memory Systems (TMS) and Violin Memory were representative startups in the United States that produced some of the best products in the first generation. TMS was established in 1978 but it was not until January 2001 that the company released its first generation of enterprise flash arrays when they released RAM- SAN 520, supporting 64 GB SDRAM in storage capacity. Violin Memory was established in 2005 and released its 6000 series of flash memory in 2011. In general, the system designs in this generation simply focus on how to utilize the high performance of SSD with the substantial increase in IOPS and bandwidth coupled with sizable decrease in latency. The systems did not incorporate any enterprise-class features and relied solely on the host side to provide data protections. The non-existence of value-added features meant SSDs were basically reserved for use in the system cache to accelerate reads but had little application in actual production systems. The application layer needed to have extraordinarily high availability and disaster recovery capabilities. However, the difficulty in deploying, operating, and maintaining the apparatus on the client side was also an issue. As AFAs continued to be refined, the focus on performance alone began to wane.

2. The second generation: SSD Hybrid

The second generation improved on first generation offerings, sometimes even placing a full SSD configuration into general-purpose storage arrays. Second gen also offered remote replication, snapshot, thin provisioning, and other enterprise-class functions. The F series of the IBM Storwize, the 3PAR 7450 series from HP, and the VNX-F series from EMC were all representative products of this generation. The advantages and disadvantages were apparent. The advantages being the arrays could seamlessly interconnect to traditional HDDs and leave most familiar use habits unchanged. The disadvantages were the SSDs were forced into a conventional HDD architectural design with only slight optimizations geared to solid-state medium attributes. Competing with the HDD-dominated layout, the full performance potential of flash remained untapped. This generation of product sold for millions of USD as the systems tended to be huge in scale, which meant many enterprises could not afford to deploy at scale.

3. The third generation: SSD optimized

Enterprises started to warm up to flash. The third generation of all flash memory essentially entailed SSD optimizations to achieve better performance than the previous generation. EMC Unity-F series, HDS VSP-F series, HP Optimized 3PAR 8450 were the stalwarts. The Storage Performance Council started to issue SPC-1 ratings and policy guidelines. HP 3PAR 8450 achieved 540,000 IOPS with latency as low as 1 ms. Customers said performance on the HDS VSP-F was great. However, the lack of cost and utilization efficiency still kept all-SSD from the full push into the enterprise data center. The lack of data reduction capabilities in this generation didn’t help either. Adding to the problem, introduction of enhanced protection capabilities (like RAID levels), snapshot, and other features made performance fluctuate and fall. There was still a tradeoff between performance and reliability — enterprises couldn’t have their cake and eat it too! Although not yet perfected, many customers placed their performance-sensitive online transaction services on the flash layer but had to make a compromise in terms of applied function levels.

4. The fourth generation: SSD native

In just two years, the fourth generation of AFAs were being turned out. They featured SSD native designs and optimizations. This generation took 1 ms latency as the baseline, arriving at the perfect balance in performance and storage efficiency while aiming for zero drop in processing metrics when deduplication and compression features are enabled. EMC XtremIO, PureStorage M series, and the newly released Huawei OceanStor Dorado V3 are the current stand-out products. XtremIO produced more than $1 billion in revenue in 2015, becoming EMC’s fastest growing product in the company’s history. The offering can be scaled out to 16 controllers and offers inline reduction capabilities. PureStorage was the first vendor to release a data reduction guarantee and offers three years of free upgrades on controllers for those customers who remain on maintenance and support for that same number of years then renew with its Evergreen Program. Huawei’s latest release of the OceanStor Dorado V3 boasts stable 0.5 ms latency even when deduplication and compression are enabled, and this is backed by a 3:1 data reduction guarantee. In contrast to EMC and PureStorage, the Huawei array features a gateway-free active-active solution design to help enterprises achieve higher performance while satisfying the most demanding of reliability requirements. Everyone is praising the Huawei accomplishment. Because the service loads of the future are rather uncertain, the Dorado is future proof and able to tie into vast VM layouts, virtual desktop infrastructures (VDIs), analytic databases, production databases, and a wide range of applications. Industry reports have stated that approximately 40% of the critical services at enterprises have been moved from conventional high-end storage to AFAs.

Generations of flash have seen completely optimized designs, improvements in performance and efficiency, and value-added reliability and other features as the new breakthroughs defining each new step up as well as standards and corresponding applications. Optimized designs for flash have provided a fast and cost-effective way to protect investments in the SSD era. Enterprise-class value-added features provide the level of stability and reliability critical applications require. Performance and reliability are no longer a tradeoff. Enterprises need both to satisfy the uncertainty of their needs as information continues to explode.

The next generation of all flash will move into all-IP and intensified cloud adoptions. These two new competitive points will be applied to everything from mission-critical services all the way down to general services. Find out how Huawei can keep you modern with the future-proof attributes of OceanStor Dorado V3 in addition to our continued innovations in all-flash.

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Source: Huawei Enterprise Blog