Pure Storage Announces Second Generation FlashArray//C with QLC

Disclaimer: I recently attended Storage Field Day 20.  My flights, accommodation and other expenses were paid for by Tech Field Day. There is no requirement for me to blog about any of the content presented and I am not compensated in any way for my time at the event.  Some materials presented were discussed under NDA and don’t form part of my blog posts, but could influence future discussions.

Pure Storage recently announced its second generation FlashArray//C – an all-QLC offering offering scads of capacity in a dense form factor. Pure Storage presented on this topic at Storage Field Day 20. You can see videos of the presentation here, and download my rough notes from here.

 

It’s A Box!

FlashArray//C burst on to the scene last year as an all-flash, capacity-optimised storage option for customers looking for storage that didn’t need to go quite as fast the FlashArray//X, but that wasn’t built on spinning disk. Available capacities range from 1.3PB to 5.2PB (effective).

[image courtesy of Pure Storage]

There are a number of models available, with a variety of capacities and densities.

  Capacity Physical
 

//C60-366

 

Up to 1.3PB effective capacity**

366TB raw capacity**

3U; 1000–1240 watts (nominal–peak)

97.7 lbs (44.3 kg) fully loaded

5.12” x 18.94” x 29.72” chassis

 

//C60-494

 

Up to 1.9PB effective capacity**

494TB raw capacity**

3U; 1000–1240 watts (nominal–peak)

97.7 lbs (44.3 kg) fully loaded

5.12” x 18.94” x 29.72” chassis

 

//C60-840

 

Up to 3.2PB effective capacity**

840TB raw capacity**

6U; 1480–1760 watts (nominal–peak)

177.0lbs (80.3kg) fully loaded

10.2” x 18.94 x 29.72” chassis

 

//C60-1186

 

Up to 4.6PB effective capacity**

1.2PB raw capacity**

6U; 1480–1760 watts (nominal–peak)

185.4 lbs (84.1 kg) fully loaded

15.35” x 18.94 x 29.72” chassis

 

//C60-1390

 

Up to 5.2PB effective capacity**

1.4PB raw capacity**

9U; 1960–2280 watts (nominal–peak)

273.2 lbs (123.9 kg) fully loaded

15.35” x 18.94 x 29.72” chassis

Workloads

There are reasons why the FlashArray//C could be a really compelling option for workload consolidation. More and more workloads are “business critical” in terms of both performance and availability. There’s a requirement to do more with less, while battling complexity, and a strong desire to manage everything via a single pane of glass.

There are some other cool things you could use the //C for as well, including:

  • Automated policy-based VM tiering between //X and //C arrays;
  • DR using the //X at production and //C at your secondary site;
  • Consolidating multiple //X array workloads on a single //C array for test and dev; and
  • Consolidating multiple //X array snapshots to a single //C array for long-term retention.

 

It’s a QLC World, Sort Of

The second generation is FlashArray//C means you can potentially now have flash all through the data centre.

  • Apps and VMs – provision your high performance workloads to //X, lower performance / high capacity workloads to //C
  • Modern Data Protection & Disaster Recovery – on-premises production applications on //X efficiently replicated or backed up to //C at DR site
  • User File Shares – User file access with Purity 6.0 via SMB, NFS

QLC nonetheless presents significant engineering challenges with traditionally high write latency and low endurance (when compared to SLC, MLC, and TLC). Pure Storage’s answer to that problem has been to engineer the crap out of DirectFlash to get the required results. I’d do a bad job of explaining it, so instead I recommend you check out Pete Kirkpatrick’s explanation.

 

Thoughts And Further Reading

I covered the initial FlashArray//C announcement here and many of the reasons why this type of offering is appealing remain the same. The knock on Pure Storage in the last few years has been that, while FlashArray//X is nice and fast and a snap to use, it couldn’t provide the right kind of capacity (i.e. cheap and deep) that a number of price-sensitive punters wanted.  Sure, they could go and buy the FlashArray//X and then look to another vendor for a dense storage option, but the motivation to run with a number of storage vendors in smaller enterprise shops is normally fairly low. The folks in charge of technology in these environments are invariably stretched in terms of bodies on the floor to run the environments, and cash in the bank to procure those solutions. A single vendor solution normally makes sense for them (as opposed to some of the larger shops, or specialist organisations that really have very specific requirements that can only be serviced by particular solutions).

So now Pure Storage has the FlashArray//C, and you can get it with some decent density, some useful features (thanks in part to some new features in Purity 6), and integration with the things you know and like about Pure Storage, such as Pure1 and Evergreen storage. It seems like Pure Storage has done an awful lot of work to squeeze performance out of QLC whilst ensuring that the modules don’t need replacing every other week. There’s a lot to like about the evolving Pure Storage story, and I’m interested to see how they tie it all together as the portfolio continues to expand. You can read the press release here, access the data sheet here, and read Mellor’s take on the news here.

Pure Storage Expands Portfolio, Adds Capacity And Performance

Disclaimer: I recently attended Pure//Accelerate 2019.  My flights, accommodation, and conference pass were paid for by Pure Storage. There is no requirement for me to blog about any of the content presented and I am not compensated by Pure Storage for my time at the event.  Some materials presented were discussed under NDA and don’t form part of my blog posts, but could influence future discussions.

Pure Storage announced two additions to its portfolio of products today: FlashArray//C and DirectMemory Cache. I had the opportunity to hear about these two products at the Storage Field Day Exclusive event at Pure//Accelerate 2019 and thought I’d share some thoughts here.

 

DirectMemory Cache

DirectMemory Cache is a high-speed caching system that reduces read latency for high-locality, performance-critical applications.

  • High speed: based on Intel Optane SCM drives
  • Caching system: repeated accesses to “hot data” are sped up automatically – no tiering = no configuration
  • Read latency: only read performance is affected – no changes to latency
  • High-locality: only workloads that reuse often a dates that fits in the cache will benefit
  • Performance-Critical: high-throughput latency sensitive workloads

According to Pure, “DirectMemory Cache is the functionality within Purity that provides direct access to data and accelerates performance critical applications”. Note that this is only for read data, write caching is still done via DRAM.

How Can This Help?

Pure has used Pure1 Meta analysis to arrive at the following figures:

  • 80% of arrays can achieve 20% lower latency
  • 40% of arrays can achieve 30-50% lower latency (up to 2x boost)

So there’s some real potential to improve existing workloads via the use of this read cache.

DirectMemory Configurations

Pure Storage DirectMemory Modules plug directly into FlashArray//X70 and //X90, are inserted into the chassis, and are available in the following configurations:

  • 3TB (4x750GB) DirectMemory Modules
  • 6TB (8x750GB) DirectMemory Modules

Top of Rack Architecture

Pure are positioning the “top of rack” architecture as a way to compete some of the architectures that have jammed a bunch of flash in DAS or in compute to gain increased performance. The idea is that you can:

  • Eliminate data locality;
  • Bring storage and compute closer;
  • Provide storage services that are not possible with DAS;
  • Bring the efficiency of FlashArray to traditional DAS applications; and
  • Offload storage and networking load from application CPUs.

 

FlashArray//C

Typical challenges in Tier 2

Things can be tough in the tier 2 storage world. Pure outlined some of the challenges they were seeking to address by delivering a capacity optimised product.

Management complexity

  • Complexity / management
  • Different platforms and APIs
  • Interoperability challenges

Inconsistent Performance

  • Variable app performance
  • Anchored by legacy disk
  • Undersized / underperforming

Not enterprise class

  • <99.9999% resiliency
  • Disruptive upgrades
  • Not evergreen

The C Stands For Capacity Optimised All-Flash Array

Flash performance at disk economics

  • QLC architecture enables tier 2 applications to benefit from the performance of all-flash – predictable 2-4ms latency, 5.2PB (effective) in 9U delivers 10x consolidation for racks and racks of disk.

Optimised end-to-end for QLC Flash

  • Deep integration from software to QLC NAND solves QLC wear concerns and delivers market-leading economics. Includes the same evergreen maintenance and wear replacement as every FlashArray

“No Compromise” enterprise experience

  • Built for the same 99.9999%+ availability, Pure1 cloud management, API automation, and AI-driven predictive support of every FlashArray

Flash for every data workflow

  • Policy driven replication, snapshots, and migration between arrays and clouds – now use Flash for application tiering, DR, Test / Dev, Backup, and retention

Configuration Details

Configuration options include:

  • 366TB RAW – 1.3PB effective
  • 878TB RAW – 3.2PB effective
  • 1.39PB RAW – 5.2PB effective

Use Cases

  • Policy based VM tiering between //X and //C
  • Multi-cloud data protection and DR – on-premises and multi-site
  • Multi-cloud test / dev – workload consolidation

*File support (NFS / SMB) coming in 2020 (across the entire FlashArray family, not just //C)

 

Thoughts

I’m a fan of companies that expand their portfolio based on customer requests. It’s a good way to make more money, and sometimes it’s simplest to give the people what they want. The market has been in Pure’s ear for some time about delivering some kind of capacity storage solution. I think it was simply a matter of time before the economics and the technology intersected at a point where it made sense for it to happen. If you’re an existing Pure customer, this is a good opportunity to deploy Pure across all of your tiers of storage, and you get the benefit of Pure1 keeping an eye on everything, and your “slow” arrays will still be relatively performance-focused thanks to NVMe throughout the box. Good times in IT isn’t just about speeds and feeds though, so I think this announcement is more important in terms of simplifying the story for existing Pure customers that may be using other vendors to deliver Tier 2 capabilities.

I’m also pretty excited about DirectMemory Cache, if only because it’s clear that Pure has done its homework (i.e. they’ve run the numbers on Pure1 Meta) and realised that they could improve the performance of existing arrays via a reasonably elegant solution. A lot of the cool kids do DAS, because that’s what they’ve been told will yield great performance. And that’s mostly true, but DAS can be a real pain in the rear when you want to move workloads around, or consolidate performance, or do useful things like data services (e.g. replication). Centralised storage arrays have been doing this stuff for years, and it’s about time they were also able to deliver the performance required in order for those companies not to have to compromise.

You can read the press release here, and the Tech Field Day videos can be viewed here.

Pure Storage Announces FlashBlade, FlashArray//m10 and FlashStack CI Enhancements

Another Pure Storage product announcement means a mouthful for my blog post title. I sometimes struggle to get across the magic of vendor product announcements, so if you want a really good insight into what is going on, check out Dave Henry’s post here. Pure Storage are currently running their Pure//Accelerate event and are making three key announcements today:

  • FlashBlade;
  • FlashArray//m10; and
  • FlashStack CI enhancements.

 

FlashBlade

Pure Storage have done a decent job working with structured storage offerings (think traditional block, databases, and VM workloads). FlashBlade, however, is a file, object, and container-based solution. As always, Pure Storage have come through with what can only be described as a pretty snazzy hardware design.

FlashBlade_Box

So what is it then? Basically, it’s 4RU of flash storage, scale-out goodness. To wit:

  • 8TB or 52TB scale-out blades
  • 15 blades per chassis, offering “elastic” scale at >$1 useable per GB
  • 100% flash, 0% SSD
  • Low-latency, software-defined (isn’t everything?) 40GbE interconnect
  • Scale-out storage software

Note that at General Availability (GA), scalability is limited to one chassis, then going to 2, 3, etc via a fairly aggressive roadmap. So what’s in a FlashBlade?

FlashBlade_Internal

The blade uses an Intel Xeon-based system on a chip, with 8 full CPUs, integrated NV-RAM, 1 FPGA, 2 x ARM cores and PCIe connectivity amongst other things. As far as the software side of things goes, there are a few things to note:

  • Only NFS v3 will be supported at GA, with plans for SMB and HDFS;
  • The S3 object support will offer create, read, update, and delete functionality, with further functionality being added post-GA;
  • Data services include data reduction and encryption, with snapshots and replication on the to do list;
  • They use N+2 erasure coding (so you can lose 2 nodes); and
  • They use LDPC error correction.

Pure Storage are claiming 1.6PBs effective storage in 4RU (assuming 3:1 data reduction), which, as scalability improves, will make for some nicely dense solutions on a per rack basis, with very reasonable power usage at 1.3KW /PB.

When can you buy one? Directed availability is in the second half of 2016, with GA shortly thereafter.

 

FlashArray//m10

PureStorage_FlashArray_Boxshot

I wrote about the “//m” series of FlashArrays when they were announced last year. They’re pretty cool. Pure Storage has now announced the //m10, a smaller version of the previously released models. The //m10 has the following features:

  • 12.5TB – 25TB of effective* capacity (5 or 10TB RAW) – *note that effective capacity assumes a 5:1 average data reduction;
  • All software is included;
  • Evergreen Storage support;
  • 1 year of Pure1 support; and
  • It’s fully upgradeable to any //m series FlashArray.

Pure Storage have told me these are starting at < US $50K, with GA in Q2 2016.

 

FlashStack CI

Pure Storage announced FlashStack a little while ago (you can grab the datasheet from here).

PureStorage_FlashStack

Enhancements to the current CI platform include SAP Lumira and Microsoft Exchange solutions. Pure Storage are now positioning the FlashStack Mini solution (with the //m10) for around US $100K, which might be appealing given the right circumstances. As always, have a chat to your local Puritan (!) about what might work for you and what it might cost.

Pure_Cloud

Finally, Pure Storage spoke briefly to me about an all-flash hybrid cloud solution on built on Azure and leveraging Equinix or your local DC. they also have an AWS solution coming soon. The key thing of note here is that you’ll get your compute via the public cloud with storage that has all the features you need (primarily performance and security). It’s an interesting concept, and one I’m looking forward to digging into further.

 

Further Reading and Closing Thoughts

I was enthusiastic about Pure Storage when I had a chance to meet with them at SFD6 and SFD8. They’re saying a lot of the right things and have branched out a fair bit with this latest announcement. Previous feedback I’d had from people I’d talked to in the marketplace was that Pure Storage had a pretty solid offering with their FlashArray (particularly the //m), but what else did they have up their sleeve? Well, now we know, and I think if Pure Storage can execute on a lot of what’s being positioned as post-GA functionality then they’ll have a pretty serious offering. If nothing else, it’s worth having a chat to your local Puritan to hear more.

[Update]

Enrico has a nice post here, and Alex has some good thoughts here and here. You can read the Enrico’s El Reg wrap-up here.