Flash-optimized storage with XtremIO: Cost and efficiency benefits that could work for you

Flash-optimized storage with XtremIO: Cost and efficiency benefits that could work for you

Flash-optimized storage platforms have promised to transform the datacenter for some time now.  EMC’s XtremIO is delivering on that promise by leveraging storage efficiency features that make all flash data centers a reality. So why all the hype in the storage industry around flash-optimized storage, and where does XtremIO fit in?

Flash versus convention

Solid state disks (SSDs) are a very different technology than hard disk drives (HDDs) and as such need to be treated differently in a storage architecture. The performance profile, types of failures, endurance, and susceptibility to environmental factors are just a few examples of characteristics that are very different between the two technologies. Simply replacing HDDs with SSDs in traditional storage arrays will not provide a cost-effective, efficient, and reliable solution.

The XtremIO engineering team had the following five design goals supporting their objectives of lowering cost while increasing performance and reliability:

1. Maximized usable capacity
2. No hot spares
3. Superior performance
4. Maximized flash endurance
5. No setup, no tuning

The cost

The objective of lowering cost is interesting on a couple of levels. As SSD technology develops, it naturally comes down in price, but most all-flash arrays (AFAs) are marketed purely on performance. The reason is that they have historically been much more expensive and therefore have been considered as a point solution for specific workloads that require extreme performance and can justify the high price tag. XtremIO, on the other hand, can be viewed as a general-purpose solution with superior, consistent performance as a side benefit.

The performance

What if you could size your solutions purely on capacity and not have to worry about the performance? The value proposition is based on the fact that XtremIO excels at serving not only high-performance workloads but mixed workloads as well. Customers can deploy their mission-critical systems on the same frame as their general-purpose, test, and development environments. The architecture simplifies things in the data center and frees up time for you to tackle higher-level and more interesting tasks, such as orchestration. There is no longer a need to design performance tiers or spend lost hours on tuning the storage.

Would you consider running your current storage system at 70%-80% capacity or more? The fact is that most storage systems suffer performance issues when they reach these levels, and manufacturers often recommend that they stay well below these numbers. That ends up being a lot of space that is purchased but can’t be used. XtremIO is designed for partial stripe writes and does not do system-level garbage collection. Because of its flash-optimized features, it performs predictably and consistently whether it is 20% full or 100% full. Consider how virtualization changed the way we think about efficiencies in the data center. It enabled us to get much more out of our environments by designing for higher utilization after consolidating multiple servers. I believe XtremIO is changing the storage industry by enabling the same types of designs but at the storage layer.

The bottom line

With the efficiency features enabled by default such as inline deduplication, compression, and in-memory metadata, XtremIO can compete on price with legacy HDD arrays. It is obvious that architecture matters, and XtremIO is making it possible for organizations to respond to increasing customer expectations across the gamut of their application portfolio. These same efficiency features are important in an AFA, as they enable all five of the goals mentioned earlier.

I’ll be writing about many aspects of the XtremIO architecture over the next few months. I believe it will become perfectly clear as we dive into the architecture that it is specifically engineered for flash media and, as such, it has some clear advantages. For me, flash-optimized storage means it has been engineered to be very efficient in the way it writes data, in turn enabling consistent low-latency performance as well as the endurance of the flash media and usable capacity.

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