On March 17, 2015, the Storage Performance Council (SPC) updated its “Top Ten” list of SPC-2 results that includes performance metrics going back almost three (3) years to May 2012. Noteworthy in these updated results is that the three storage arrays ranked at the top are, in order, a high end mainframe-centric, monolithic storage array (the HP XP7, OEMed from Hitachi), an all-flash storage array (from startup Kaminario, the K2 box) and a hybrid storage array (Oracle ZFS Storage ZS4-4 Appliance). Making these performance results particularly interesting is that the hybrid storage array, the Oracle ZFS Storage ZS4-4 Appliance, can essentially go toe-to-toe from a performance perspective with both the million dollar HP XP7 and Kaminario K2 arrays and do so at approximately half of their cost.
Right now there is a great deal of debate in the storage industry about which of these three types of arrays – all-flash, high end or hybrid – can provide the highest levels of performance. In recent years, all-flash and high end storage arrays have generally gone neck-and-neck though all-flash arrays are generally now seen as taking the lead and pulling away.
However, when price becomes a factor (and when isn’t price a factor?) such that enterprises have to look at price and performance, suddenly hybrid storage arrays surface as very attractive alternatives for many enterprises. Granted, hybrid storage arrays may not provide all of the performance of either all-flash or high end arrays, but they can certainly deliver superior performance at a much lower cost.
This is what makes the recently updated Top Ten results on the SPC website so interesting. While the breadth of arrays covered in the published SPC results by no means cover every storage array on the market, they do provide enterprises with some valuable insight into:
- How well hybrid storage arrays can potentially perform
- How comparable their storage capacity is to high-end and all-flash arrays
- How much more economical hybrid storage arrays are
In looking at these three arrays that currently sit atop the SPC-2 Top Ten list and how they were configured for this test, they were comparable in one of the ways that enterprises examine when making a buying decision. For instance, all three had comparable amounts of raw capacity.
High-End HP XP7 230TB
All-Flash Kaminario K2 179TB
Hybrid Oracle ZFS Storage ZS4-4 Appliance 175TB
Despite using comparable amounts of raw capacity for testing purposes, they got to these raw capacity totals using decidedly different media. The high end, mainframe-centric HP XP7 used 768 300GB 15K SAS HDDs to get to its 230TB total while the all-flash Kaminario K2 used 224 solid state drives (SSDs) to get to its 179TB total. The Oracle ZS4-4 stood out from these other two storage arrays in two ways. First, it used 576 300GB 10K SAS HDDs. Second, its storage media costs were a fraction of the other two. Comparing strictly list prices, its media costs were only about 16% of the cost of the HP XP7 and 27% of the cost of the Kaminario K2.
These arrays also differed in terms of how many and what types of storage networking ports they each used. Both the HP XP7 and the Kaminario K2 used a total of 64 and 56 8Gb FC ports respectively for connectivity between the servers and their storage arrays. The Oracle ZS4-4 only needed 16 ports for connectivity though it used Infiniband for server-storage connectivity as opposed to 8Gb FC. The HP XP7 and Oracle ZS4-4 also used cache (512GB and ~3TB respectively) while the Kaminario K2 used no cache at all. It instead used a total of 224 solid state drives (SSDs) packaged in 28 flash nodes (8-800GB SSDs in each flash node.)
This is not meant to disparage the configuration or architecture of any of these three different storage arrays as each one uses proven technologies in the design of their arrays. Yet what is notable is the end results when these three arrays in these configurations are subjected to the same SPC2 performance benchmarking tests.
While the HP XP7 and Kaminario K2 came out on top from an overall performance perspective, it is interesting to note how well the Oracle ZS4-4 performs and what its price/performance ratio is when compared to the high end HP XP7 and the all-flash Kaminario K2. It provides 75% to over 90% of the performance of these other arrays at a cost per MB that is up to 46% less.
Source: “Top Ten” SPC-2 Results, https://www.storageperformance.org/results/benchmark_results_spc2_top-ten
It is easy for enterprises to become enamored with all-flash arrays or remain transfixed on high-end arrays because of their proven and perceived performance characteristics and benefits. But these recent SPC-2 performance benchmarks illustrate that hybrid storage arrays such as the Oracle ZFS Storage ZS4-4 Appliance can deliver levels of performance that are comparable to million-dollar all-flash and high-end arrays at half of their cost which are numbers that any enterprise can take to the bank.