NetApp Solid State Array Aims For Critical Business Apps

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NetApp’s new solid state flash storage array wants to gobble structured data

Storage giant NetApp has launched an all-flash memory array designed for high performance structured data applications, and previewed the next part of its plan for solid state storage – the FlashRay system which will bring the technology to low cost scale-out hardware for more general use.

The EF540 array can speed up business applications, reduce storage over-provisioning and cut power usage and wasted data centre space, using solid state drives for frequently accessed data. It uses NetApp’s SANtricity operating system, and delivers over 300,000 I/O operations per second (IOPS) and gives access to data in less than a millisecond.

The company also upgraded its existing FAS storage systems.

Laurence James NetAppFlash cache wallop!

“This builds on what we’ve done previously in flash cache pooling, and our work with Fusion-IO on the server side,” said NetApp marketing manager Laurence James. “We have shipped over 35 Pbyte of flash storage since 2009.”

As the volumes of flash storage ramp up, venture-funded start-ups are entering the space, but NetApp has a better pedigree, he claimed.  “We made an acquisition in 2011, buying the Engenio storage division from LSI for £297 million. That was money well spent: there are half a million of those products sold, and they have been OEMed by IBM, Oracle, Dell, SGI and others. We are coming in as a Tier 1 player, with a 20 year heritage.”

NetApp logo

From that strong OEM base, NetApp is launching its own enterprise grade product, said James. “It will have N+1 controllers and power supplies, and premium features, such as snapshots and volume copying, as well as synchronous and asynchronous mirroring to other devices – hard drives or other flash systems.


The product connects by Fibre Channel, SCSI, iSCSI or Infiniband, and will be suited to structured data applications, such as SAP, Sybase, Oracle or other database work, he said. “It is for dedicated workloads, not scale-out applications that need extreme performance.”

“This category is going to be a game changer in the storage industry as the price of flash falls,” he said. “In 2009 it cost $65 per Gigabyte, now the cost including a controller is $15 to $18 per Gbyte, and for an upgrade you can go as low as $8.”

The EF540 will replace arrays of hard drives where storage administrators have implemented workarounds like “short stroking” to get fast access to regularly used data. As hard drive capacities have increased, the seek times have gone down because the number of heads in a disk drive remains the same, said James. The “short stroking” approach spreads data thinly across a lot of drives so it is quickly accessed, but the drawback of that approach is it results in data spread thinly and space being wasted.

Twenty-four SSDs in an EF540 can replace 1000 hard drives in a short-stroking configuration, said James, and doing this will drastically cut the rack space used (to 2U), while using a tiny fraction of the electricity.

Preview of FlashRay

The future FlashRay architecture will be available in beta in the middle of 2013, and builds a new storage architecture said James. “Whereas the EF540 is focused on dedicated workloads there will be a clear requirement for a product that scales out, based on flash,” said James, “but scales out on a shared infrastructure.”

FlashRay will have data management features as found in NetApp’s existing FAS products, such as inline dedupe and compression. It will have high performance and low latency, he promised.

The existing FAS flash storage arrays got an upgrade with the FAS/V6220, FAS6250, and FAS6290 offering more capacity and performance.

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