The Time of Flash is Upon Us: EMC EFD

10 05 2010

Like with any cutting edge technology, when it first hits the market the price can tend to be on the high side.  As adoption and standardization increase however, the price will slowly come down to a reasonable level.  Such is the case with EMC EFD, or Enterprise Flash drives.

EFD technology was brought to market last year by EMC and is available in all of the Clariion and Celerra arrays, as well as higher end V-MAX and Symmetrix units.  Enterprise Flash drives are based upon solid state technology, are constructed with nonvolatile semiconductor NAND Flash memory, and can sustain roughly up to 30 times more IOPS than a 15K fibre channel drive.

Not only are they capable of supporting more I/O than traditional drive technology, but they also consume less power and have a longer service life due to the fact that they have no moving components.

So while none of that info is really new, what caught my attention recently is the pricing which has come down significantly even within the last 6 months.  I have a customer for which I am designing an array to replace their existing storage that is way over-utilized and causing significant performance issues.  Based on their breakdown of usable space vs. required I/O they would have ended up significantly short-stroking their storage and basically wasting a lot of drive space to achieve their required level of performance.  By introducing EFD’s to the configuration I was able to significantly reduce the total number of drives while still meeting their performance requirements.  I was also able to reduce the total cost of the solution by again building less drives in the array, which reduced the number of disk array enclosures, and by allowing them to stay in a smaller array and ensuring space for growth over the life of the solution.  If you looked at flash technology even 6 months ago this may not have been feasible depending on the total number or drives at play, as a single EFD was almost as expensive as a full tray of 15K fibre drives, but the price point is finally at a point where it makes sense.

Even if your not I/O constrained, automated storage tiering is also becoming a reality even for mid-market customers.  EMC’s FAST, Fully Automated Storage Tiering, solution was released around the beginning of the year and is specifically designed to enable the most efficient use of each type of storage in an array.  For the sake of brevity, you can go here for more detailed info on FAST, but suffice to say it is the future of data storage.  Flash technology is a major enabler for FAST to be a reality.

The real excitement will be when FLASH v2 comes out later this year.  While FLASH v1 was a good first stab, the 2nd generation will allow for automated tiering at the sub-LUN level.  Basically the array will be able to migrate only the hottest blocks of a LUN thus ensuring the most efficient use of top-tier, EFD based storage.  This should allow for anyone to introduce Flash technology in their environment at a realistic price point and realize the benefits.




One response

11 05 2010

Great article, I sent it to three customers. Thanks!

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