Pure announces new FlashBlade NAS & entry level FlashArray//m10

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Today Pure Storage announced FlashBlade, an all flash, scale-out NAS system for unstructured data and a new low-end FlashArray//m10 for small to medium enterprises.

Pure has had a lot of success with structured data and their FlashArray products but the bulk of customer data, ~88% is unstructured and it’s growing at a ~58% CAGR. However, most unstructured data storage today depends on hybrid disk-SSD flash storage. Pure decided the time was right for an all flash solution to unstructured data

Yet, their current dual controller FlashArray offerings weren’t well positioned for this broader storage market because they’re not scale-out, and depend on relatively poor meta-data accessing SSDs for storage. So, Pure Storage designed a brand new, scale-out storage, the FlashBlade, which doesn’t use SSDs or a dual-controller architecture.

FlashBlade Hardware

The FlashBlade is a new hardware design built around storage blades that plug into a chassis or enclosure. Each storage blade has a 2-core ARM and FPGA managed/controlled NAND storage as well as an 8-core, Xeon storage controller combined into a single pluggable blade. On the back of each storage blade are two 10Gbit Ethernet links, which plug into the “Elastic Fabric” using a proprietary protocol to interconnect with other Blades in the chassis across an Elastic Fabric Module that acts both as a switch and load balancer. The storage blades come in 8TB or 52TB raw MLC NAND storage configurations and have super CAP backed, DRAM for write data persistence during power outages. The controllers and storage in each blade communicate over a PCIe Gen 3 bus using another Pure designed protocol.

Each 4U FlashBlade chassis has redundant fans and power supplies with slots for up to 15 storage blades and dual software defined networking switches that have 4-40GbE external ports (8 per chassis) to connect to hosts or other FlashBlade chassis.

Pure showed on their website a rack full of FlashBlades and shared at their conference the next engineering goal was to link ten chassis together, as a single NAS  cluster.

Performance

Pure states that two FlashBlade chassis are capable of 1M NFS operations per second and that a single FlashBlade was capable of 15GB/sec of throughput and only consumed 1300 Watts of power per Petabyte of effective capacity.

Elasticity Software

The Elasticity OS is the FlashBlade cluster software which runs on each storage blade and the networking switches. Elasticity provides flash management as well as object storage services and somewhere on the top of the Elasticity stack resides the various access protocols. Today, the software provides 3:1 data reduction, data encryption at rest and two access protocols NFS v3 and S3/object store but coming post-GA will be CIFS/SMB and big data protocols such as HDFS as well as snapshots and DR replication.

Elasticity UI is nearly identical to Pure Storage FlashArray and provides a GUI interface for managing and controlling the storage cluster. Elasticity implements a N+2 data protection, redundancy scheme, which means that FlashBlade can sustain up to two storage blade failures and still continue to access customer data. When a failure is encountered, Elasticity OS will rebuild redundancy on remaining free space to restore N+2 redundancy even before the failed component is replaced.

How host IO gets to the appropriate storage blade that holds its data for processing is an open question, but it probably has something to do with the software defined networking. Other scale-out NAS solutions we are familiar with provide “IO steering” code in the software defined switch to guide host IO to a proper node.

FlashArray//m10

In addition to the FlashBlade, Pure Storage also announced a new FlashArray, the //m10, which is designed to complement their high end structured data solutions but now available for small-to-medium environments. The //m10 will deliver all flash performance and Pure proven reliability starting at less than $50K. The //m10 provides 5 or 10TB of raw SSD storage or 12.5 or 25TB effective after data reduction and can be upgraded to any other FlashArray offering. The new array is also available in a FlashStack Mini, a new converged infrastructure (CI) solution that takes advantage of Cisco UCS compute and networking as well as virtualization from Microsoft or VMware.

Significance

There’s been talk of flash taking over all data storage for some time now. Flash costs have always been a limiting factor, but with data reduction and raw NAND price reductions, economics were starting to match disk, at least in performance sensitive environments. FlashBlade was created to take this to a new level using raw NAND chips and data reduction. Pure says FlashBlade can be purchased for less than $1/effective GB, which brings it more inline with low-cost disk-only and hybrid disk-flash storage.

The //m10 array and FlashStack Mini are also good moves. The new array opens up the low end market to their solutions and CI offerings can be very appealing in that resource constrained environment.

Many vendors provide two separate solutions for structured and unstructured data, but only a few have combined the two into one, unified storage system. When Pure will integrate their FlashArrays and FlashBlades together into one unified solution is yet another open question but storage management has already been unified into one GUI.

[This storage announcement dispatch was originally sent out to our newsletter subscribers in March of 2016.  If you would like to receive this information via email please consider signing up for our free monthly newsletter (see subscription request, above right) and we will send our current issue along with download instructions for this and other reports. Dispatches are posted to our website at least a quarter or more after they are sent to our subscribers. Also we have recently updated (April 2019) our NAS Buying Guide so if you are interested in purchasing block or primary storage, please checkout our Buying Guide available for sale on our website. ]  

Silverton Consulting, Inc. is a Storage, Strategy & System consulting services company, based in the USA offering products and services to the data storage community.

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