EMC Launches The First XtremIO All-Flash Array

Built with technology acquired last year, EMC’s first entry into the market is out to impress

EMC has announced general availability of its first all-Flash array, focused on “extreme performance”. Built with XtremIO technology, the appliance features scale-out multi-controller architecture with always-on deduplication and data protection that claims to be six times more efficient and four times faster than traditional RAID configurations.

EMC says that thanks to a number of proprietary technologies, the new array has higher IOPS, lower latency and considerably improved endurance in comparison with all-Flash arrays offered by the competition.

“Flash continues to be a major disruptive force – and an incredible market opportunity in storage. There is an insatiable appetite for performance driven by next generation data centre workloads in both physical and virtual environments,” said CJ Desai, president of Emerging Technology Products Division at EMC.

“With XtremIO, we’re delivering this fast growing market with a specialized solution that delivers ‘more’ – more consistent and predictable performance, more scale, more integration and more data services.”

However, Dell argues that the new product doesn’t tackle the issue of cost, which it considers the greatest barrier to a wider Flash adoption in the enterprise.

XtremIOBetter late than never

EMC acquired Israeli enterprise Flash experts XtremIO in 2012 for $430 million. Notable co-founders of the company include Aryeh Margi, who also co-founded M-Systems, responsible for developing and patenting the very first USB Flash drive in 1999.

According to IDC, the all-Flash storage array market is expected to grow to $1.2 billion in revenue by 2015. Such appliances are especially useful for companies running Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), virtual servers, massively consolidated databases and test or development environments.

The new array is based on building blocks called the ‘X-Bricks’. Each X-Brick features 10TB of capacity – with 20TB units expected to be available early next year. Built with high performance Flash, they can deliver up to one million fully random IOPS, with over 250TB of effective capacity in a cluster.

Among the key features of the new array is the content-based data placement, which keeps the appliance balanced across all SSDs and array controllers, removing duplicate data inline in the data path.

Meanwhile, the dual-stage metadata engine removes the need for system level back-end cleaning, better known as ‘garbage collection’. EMC claims this increases IOPS, decreases latency and considerably improves endurance in comparison to Flash arrays that apply garbage collection on a system level.

Proprietary XtremIO Data Protection (XDP) algorithms guard the array against SSD failures while delivering up to six times more usable capacity than traditional RAID without having a negative impact on performance, even when under 100 percent utilisation.

Finally, shared in-memory metadata allows the array to clone information already stored there to accelerate common tasks like deploying virtual machines. According to EMC, this technology can spin up VMs several times faster than previously possible.

Friends and enemies

The appliance is integrated within the EMC ecosystem. It is also fully supported by virtualisation software software from EMC subsidiary VMware.

“XtremIO provides Flash memory performance for unique and demanding workload requirements found in VDI environments. XtremIO all-Flash arrays with VMware Horizon View will enable our joint customers to achieve high performance and efficiency, with the ability to lower costs,” commented Erik Frieberg, VP of Product Marketing and End-User Computing at VMware.

Despite the high performance claims, Dell thinks the new array will have limited appeal due to its high cost – which hasn’t been revealed at the time of publication.

“The number one barrier to Flash adoption historically has been cost. Dell’s unique approach combines SLC and MLC Flash drives with our automated tiering to provide all-Flash performance that is four to six time more cost-effective than any other major vendor’s all-Flash solution,” said Travis Vigil, executive director of Dell Storage.

“EMC’s approach is not integrated with their existing storage offerings, trapping customers into a siloed storage approach that appears to lack the enterprise features – such as integrated replication – as well as  and other industry software and backup integrations customers might have expected.”

Not everyone is quick to criticise the newcomer. Pure Storage’s CEO Scott Dietzen has actually welcomed the competition, despite similarities to its own all-flash arrays. “Competition drives innovation and customer value. Competition makes us a better company, better at meeting the needs of our customers and our partners. Competition also fuels market growth.

“We are excited that EMC’s principal flash storage offering in XtremIO is finally entering the market, as we expect both Pure and XtremIO to benefit hugely as customers redirect their purchases from mechanical to all-flash storage.”

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