Friday, February 20, 2015

IBM FlashSystem Storage

It has been an interesting week in the world of Enterprise storage whereby IBM has released a significant Solid State (i.e. Flash)  Disk Storage product, namely the IBM V9000

The main IBM flash storage link   here

When did IBM get into Flash Storage?
IBM initially acquired a company called Texas Memory Systems.  (TMS) Here is the Press release from April 2013

Since that time it has been manufacturing what I would call stop-gap flash based storage systems.

IBM FlashSystem 720 and 820

IBM FlashSystem 840 Product Guide

The early products were either rebadged or reworked TMS Flash storage arrays.

Sidenote:   If you are an existing 720, 820 or 840 user I am sure you knew what you were doing.  It was quite obvious that these were somewhat niche, stopgap products.  They integrated OKish into your IBM environment but it's quite obvious that something more IBM was coming just around the corner.

What is Enterprise Storage Anyway?
If you are a home or small business user you might say: what is this Enterprise Storage?

Sophisticated home users no longer store their computer data on local disk drives inside their computer.  Instead they purchase a Network Attached Storage  (NAS) which contains a computer dedicated to managing just disk drives, usually in RAID configuration and connected to your other computers predominantly over wired Ethernet.

An Enterprise storage system is like a NAS but scaled up a lot.

- It will usually need 3 phase power and air conditioning, and lives inside a Datacentre
- It will usually talk from itself to other computers using higher speed networking e.g. 10G Ethernet, 8Gb/ 16Gb Fibre channel or InfiniBand
- It is normally owned, managed and operated by a separate /Storage Team/ within the IT organisation
- It usually has high availability features like storage upgrades, OS or firmware upgrades, reconfiguration,  on the fly without a reboot or loss of service to the computers it services.
- It has sophisticated management interfaces and reporting
- It has some clever features like snapshotting  (create an instantaneous copy of a requested dataset) or geo-mirroring (copy part of its data to a remote device and keeping it synchronised)
- It has a multitude of software interfaces so that an Organisation can store its native Linux, Windows, OSX, IBM Mainframe,  VMware, UNIX data on a single system
- Large systems can operate with hundreds of spinning disks
- It has large RAM memory or SSD like disk caches which store frequently used data and destage it to slower disks in the unit automatically

And a Flash Array?
This is a pure Solid state version of the Above.  

Interestingly Gartner (you know the Magic Quadrant guys) won't consider any Storage Array as Flash if it can also accommodate traditional Spinning Disks.  This is somewhat leading to Industry confusion because for a while now products like

IBM DS8870  

Hitachi G1000

provide you the option to have Enterprise Storage with a mix of  spinning  Hard Disks and Flash Storage.

General Comment: Until the cost of pure flash storage comes down  (a lot)  any customer wishing to invest in a purely Flash based Storage solution for their entire enterprise will normally find it prohibitively expensive. It could only be cost justified for the most time critical and money making concerns.  Algo trading comes to mind, Etcetera.

Back to the IBM Announcements

IBM Next Generation Flash Solutions

IBM Flash storage root

IBM FlashSystem V9000  (tier 1 storage)

This is a Storage subsystem with  ...

upto 8 controllers and 8, FlashSystem 900 units for a total of upto 456TB native flash storage.  You can also use  compression to increase this to a total of upto 2280 TB of flash storage.

Andy Walls talks IBM FlashSystem V9000

Since Andy is the Chief Technologist and IBM Distinguished Engineer  I think he can explain V9000 more succinctly than I!  Watch the 8 minute video.

See also

Now you understand V9000 let's look at the upto 8, FlashSystem 900 storage units inside of it:

IBM FlashSystem 900

The FlashSystem is the storage module that is integrated into the V9000.

from redbook:

- IBM FlashCore technology for consistently high performance at lower cost
- 90us/155us read/write latency
- Up to 1.1 million random read 4 K IOPS
- Up to 10 GB/second read bandwidth
- IBM-enhanced Micron MLC technology for higher storage density and improved endurance
- Flexible interface types of Fibre Channel, Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE), iSCSI, and InfiniBand
- Up to 16 ports of 8 Gbps or eight ports of 16 Gbps Fibre Channel
- Up to 16 ports of 10 Gbps FCoE
- Up to 16 ports of 10 Gbps iSCSI
- Up to eight ports of 40 Gbps quad data rate (QDR) InfiniBand
- Slots for up to 12 hot-swappable IBM MicroLatency storage modules (1.2 TB, 2.9 TB, or 5.7 TB)

- Configurable 2.4 - 57 TB of capacity for increased flexibility

Now you understand FlashSystem 900 let's examine the characteristics of the low latency FlashCore storage module, each of which can be upto 5.7TB in size

IBM FlashCore

Andy Walls talks FlashCore

Andy Walls in 7.5 minutes explains how FlashCore can achieve its extreme performance figures.  Basically the dataflow into each IBM MicroLatency module goes via custom  Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGA) and not via a CPU and microprocessor guided Computer.

Andy Walls, IBM Distinguished Engineer
IBM System Storage Interoperation Center

Marketing Videos
If you think these are technical videos then boy have I got some magic beans that I think you might be interested in
IBM FlashSystem Family
IBM FlashSystem V9000
IBM FlashSystem 900
IBM FlashCore

Technical Videos
Now that is more like it!
Andy Walls on IBM FlashSystem V9000
Andy Walls talks FlashCore



Redbooks update 20150320
Implementing IBM FlashSystem 900

Introducing and Implementing IBM FlashSystem V9000