IBM's FlashSystem 900: ‘Better capacity in less rack space’

What’s a dropped zero between storage arrays


IBM has upgraded its FlashSystem 840/V840 to the 900/V9000 all-flash array products, using MLC flash in a close collaboration with Micron to prevent any performance or reliability drop-off.

The V9000 is as we described here and the 9000 product that we thought should exist but couldn't find, the upgraded 840, does actually exist, but with one less digit – it's the FlashSystem 900.

IBM makes much in its announcement of its controller design with FPGA chips and hard error correction, crossbar backplane and MicroLatency flash modules.

It claims that its new products can provide "up to four times better capacity in less rack space than EMC XtremIO flash technology". It's noticeable that IBM is acknowledging a competitor in this product announcement.

We tabulated what we knew about the 840 and V840 systems and compared that to the incoming 900 and V9000 systems, with the 840 and 900 first:

FlashSystem 840 and 900 table

FlashSystem 840 and 900 table

The salient differences are that the 900 has 40 per cent more usable capacity, almost 58TB compared with the 840's 41TB. It has a slightly longer read latency; 155 µs versus the 840's 135 µs, and its read bandwidth has increased from 8GB/sec to 10GB/sec.

The IOPS performance using 4K blocks is the same, 1.1 million read and 600,000 write.

IBM_FlashSystem_900

FlashSystem 900

The old and new systems are pretty similar in performance terms while having the capacity increase.

IBM, with Micron, had made an impressive and successful effort to replace the original eMLC flash with MLC NAND, with its lower base performance and reliability characteristics.

Through a combination of Micron trimming the die characteristics and IBM engineering features into its controller technology, the new systems perform as well as the old, are as reliable (though no endurance numbers are provided as far as we could see) and have greater capacity.

The 840 was launched a year ago with the V840, containing IBM's SVC product for data services, followed in August 2014.

A year after the 840 came on the scene we have its 900 successor; a fast cadence of development.

IBM_FlashSystem_V9000_vs_V840_table

IBM FlashSystem V9000 vs V840 table

With the V9000 compared with the V840 we see a usable internal capacity increase from 320TB to 456TB, but the performance numbers – latency and IOPS and bandwidth – are the same.

Altogether the old and new systems are pretty similar in performance terms while the new systems have a capacity increase.

IBM, with Micron, has made an impressive and successful effort to replace the original eMLC flash with MLC NAND, with its lower base performance, reliability and endurance properties.

Through a combination of Micron trimming the die characteristics and IBM engineering features into its controller technology, the new systems perform as well as the old, are as reliable (though no endurance numbers are provided as far as we could see) and gain the extra capacity.

With this change to Micron flash and a collaborative engineering partnership with Micron we can perhaps look forward to coming products featuring 3D and TLC NAND and, possibly, storage memory if Micron's software development efforts bear fruit.

Such storage memory flash would be, we think, closely coupled to the host server and its operating system and, by extension, that would indicate IBM's POWER servers might be involved, as it no longer has its own X86 server technology.

We have no pricing information and can't provide any price/performance information. Mention XtremIO to your IBM or IBM channel rep and you could get a discount off list. ®

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