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What a Difference a Year Makes: Insights from the Forthcoming DCIG 2014-15 Flash Memory Storage Array Buyer’s Guide

Changes Highlight a Dynamic Flash Memory Storage Array Marketplace

Many changes have taken place in the data center storage marketplace in the 14 months since the release of the inaugural DCIG 2013 Flash Memory Storage Array Buyer’s Guide.  This blog entry highlights a few of those changes based on DCIG’s research for the forthcoming DCIG 2014-15 Flash Memory Storage Array Buyer’s Guide.

Industry Heavyweights Enter the All-Flash Array Marketplace

The 2013 Buyer’s Guide included 34 arrays from 10 storage vendors, none of which had good name recognition even among IT professionals. This year’s Buyer’s Guide will include about 40 arrays from nearly two dozen storage vendors; including industry heavyweights like Cisco, Dell, EMC, HP, HDS, IBM and NetApp. These vendors either acquired one of the all-flash companies or enhanced one of their existing storage systems with flash-specific optimizations to create an all-flash array offering.

Flash Capacity and Storage Density Rising Rapidly

Increases in flash capacity and density deliver up to a 10x improvement in performance, capacity, rack space, power and cooling efficiency versus a traditional enterprise storage array. A traditional array maxes out at a storage density of about 5TB of Tier 1 storage per rack unit. The majority (62%) of the arrays in this forthcoming Buyer’s Guide deliver more than 5TB of raw flash capacity per rack unit. Seven (18%) offer more than 20TB per rack unit. Some of the arrays can deliver 44TB of raw flash capacity per rack unit.

Data efficiency technologies can effectively multiply that already impressive raw capacity by another 4x or more. Reasonable data center managers and designers should consider the impact that reclaiming 90% of the data center floor space, power and cooling that is currently dedicated to storage might have on their data center requirements.

OpenStack for Array Management Rapidly Gaining Vendor Support

One development worth noting is the rapid adoption of OpenStack as a supported method of array management. While twenty-five (64%) of arrays can be managed via VMware vCenter, and eight (21%) can be managed via Microsoft’s System Center or via the SMI-S standard, eighteen (46%) can be managed via OpenStack. This bodes well for OpenStack in particular, and for data center automation in general.

Cloud Storage Integration on the Rise

In 2013 only WhipTail arrays claimed cloud storage integration. Now ten arrays (26%) make that claim, including arrays from Avere, EMC, HP, HDS, NetApp, and SolidFire.

Thin Provisioning and Compression Up More Than 2x

In the 2013 edition of this Buyer’s Guide, DCIG anticipated that data efficiency technologies would be more broadly adopted in Flash Memory Storage Arrays. At that point, only 43% of the arrays supported thin provisioning. The percentage of arrays supporting thin provisioning has more than doubled to 90%, with 56% also supporting automated storage reclamation. Support for compression more than tripled, rising from 12% to 38% of arrays. Support for inline deduplication remained flat at about 33% of arrays.

Microsoft Management and Storage Features Gaining Traction

Given the trend toward enterprises adopting a multi-hypervisor strategy, DCIG expected to find more arrays supporting integration with Microsoft Hyper-V for management and for Windows Server storage technologies. At this point only eight (21%) of the arrays in the forthcoming Buyer’s Guide support Microsoft System Center (SCVMM SMAPI) and Microsoft Offloaded Data Transfer (ODX). Only 5 (13%) support SMB 3.0.

VMware vSphere Integration

On the VMware integration front, some vendors have added comprehensive support for VMware’s storage-related APIs while others completely eschew them. Twenty-six (67%) support all VAAI v4.1 APIs.

Making Sense of a Fast Growing, Dynamic and Competitive Marketplace

The Flash Memory Storage Array marketplace is a fast growing, dynamic and competitive marketplace. Many vendors in this space report sales growth of over 100% per year. In the last 15 months, most all-flash array startups introduced new models or new software versions that doubled the performance of their offerings and added features important to enterprise customers, often at half the price of the prior generation. Meanwhile, many of the tech industry’s heavyweights entered the all-flash array marketplace.

The forthcoming DCIG 2014-15 Flash Memory Storage Array Buyer’s Guide will provide a current snapshot of this dynamic marketplace, and provide prospective array purchasers with a tool that will accelerate the research process, increase confidence in the results of that research, and help them quickly identify a short list of products to further research and/or acquire.

Update (3/30/2014): The DCIG 2014-15 Flash Memory Storage Array Buyer’s Guide is now available. It may be downloaded for no charge with registration by following this link.

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Ken Clipperton

About Ken Clipperton

Ken Clipperton is a Managing Analyst at DCIG, a group of analysts with IT industry expertise who provide informed, insightful, third party analysis and commentary on IT hardware, software and services. Within the data center, DCIG has a special focus on the enterprise data storage and electronically stored information (ESI) industries.

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