IBM dive-bombs into all-flash array pool

It's a belly-flop, snark startup swimmers

Violin Memory

A Violin Memory spokesperson gave answers to questions about the new FlashSystem.

El Reg: How does IBM's FlashSystem 840 compare to a Violin 6000 or 3000 array?

Violin: The IBM FlashSystem 840 announcement offers little published data to support its claims of suitability for shared enterprise storage environments. As such, we encourage prospective customers to carefully evaluate its performance and availability characteristics. This includes validating sustained performance under load and verifying that all components of a single system can be non-disruptively upgraded without reliance on external components or hot standby systems.

The IBM FlashSystem 840 also relies on SVC to support basic data management features, adding significant cost, reducing performance and tripling its footprint.

The Violin 6000 Series Flash Memory Array is a proven enterprise-class storage system, with fully-redundant hot-swappable components, NDU (non-disruptive upgrade) capability and consistent performance under heavy workloads. The system is managed by Symphony software, which provides a single-pane-of-glass view across all Violin arrays, reducing operational complexity with customisable dashboards, in-depth performance and health monitoring and automated operations.

El Reg: Does IBM's need for an SVC head for data management features empower or disadvantage the FlashSystem 840?

Violin: Customers will ultimately decide whether the performance, density and cost penalties associated with adding an SVC head are acceptable. Violin’s purpose-built memory fabric architecture and management software allow customers to take full advantage of the performance and density of the system without adding unnecessary latency, complexity and cost to the equation.


IBM takes issue with the Violin view that "IBM offers little published data to support its claims of suitability for enterprise environments ... That is not correct. FlashSystem (and its predecessors and IBM SAN Volume Controller) have been in the Enterprise market for more than a decade."

Boiled-down summary

All of IBM's competitors are heartened by the validation IBM's FlashSystem 840 move gives to the all-flash array market. But, while supportive of the need for advanced data protection and management functions, they typically feel these are best provided inside the all-flash array infrastructure itself rather than through bolt-on head units like the SVC.

IBM's general responses to the competitors' claims above are:

  • SVC was tuned for flash.
  • FlashSystem 840 is integrated with SVC.
  • The FlashSystem Enterprise Performance Solution scales up and scales out.
  • The FlashSystem Enterprise Performance Solution supports all flash configurations and configurations that virtualize other IBM and third party storage.
  • The FlashSystem Enterprise Performance Solution meets all industry requirements for resiliency and has the broadest array of advanced data services in the market.
  • IBM FlashSystem 840 and FlashSystem Enterprise Performance Solution both use the same SVC GUI enabling easier management.
  • IBM FlashSystem Enterprise Performance Solution supports Quality of Service (QoS) and offers the performance characteristics needed to support consolidation of multiple applications.
  • The IBM FlashSystem Enterprise Performance Solution can scale to support far more than 87TB configurations.
  • IBM and Texas Memory Systems have been providing solid state storage solutions for more than 30 years, and have ample customer testimonials that speak to the success of the technologies and strategies.
  • IBM tuned and optimized SVC for Flash.
  • IBM FlashSystem Enterprise Performance Solution includes Real-Time Compression which is proven to be more effective for active data environments. IBM also has a complete product line, ProtecTIER, which offers a full-suite of deduplication features.
  • FlashSystem (and its predecessors and IBM SAN Volume Controller) have been in the Enterprise market for more than a decade.

Big Blue sold 1,500 FlashSystems before the 840 was announced. It will be interesting indeed to see how well it has done by the end of 2014, and how that compares to how its competitors will have done too. Do I hear anybody saying IBM will sell another 1,500 systems? 2,000? More? ®

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