Product and service reviews are conducted independently by our editorial team, but we sometimes make money when you click on links. Learn more.

All-Flash Storage: Vendors and Comparison Guide

All-Flash Storage: Vendors and Comparison Guide

This comparison guide will introduce you to seven all-flash storage vendors and their AFA enterprise storage solutions.

The market for flash as an enterprise storage media has grown exponentially over the past few years. Once seen as an expensive alternative to spinning disk technology, customers are now realizing that the upfront cost of solid-state storage is made up for in savings due to the technology’s smaller footprint, lessened data center power requirements and, ultimately, the increase in processing speed.

An AFA, or all-flash array, is a storage device that densely packs large amounts of flash media. Whether it's SSD-based or mounted on large modular boards, businesses can take advantage of the flash medium's speed and efficiency. Large-scale solutions such as big data number crunching, or enterprise-wide VDI can exploit flash media's advantages with amazing results when applied appropriately. Applications such as video rendering and scientific research can speed through large workloads, completing tasks many times faster than with traditional HDD-based solutions, thus bringing quick returns on a company's flash investment.

The vendors that sell AFAs range from large, established multinational corporations who have either created the technology they sell or acquired it through a corporate acquisition, to smaller, younger start-ups with fresh, big ideas, and without legacy product lines to protect.

Requests Sent

In our last storage vendors and comparison guide, we looked at vendors who sold hybrid storage devices that combine flash media and spinning disks inside the same chassis. Using algorithms to separate "hot" or frequently used data from seldom used "cold" data, these hybrid devices sit between traditional disk arrays and AFAs. Not surprisingly, some of the companies we profiled in the hybrid storage story also sell all-flash products.

In this first round of our All-Flash Array Vendors and Comparison Guide, we worked with Dell, HP, IBM, NetApp, Pure Storage, Tintri and Violin Memory and asked each vendor for one to two all-flash product submissions; the first being an entry level all-flash device, and the second being a higher-end model from their storage portfolios. We also reached out to other companies including Kaminario, EchoStreams, SolidFire, Skyera, EMC, Whiptail (Cisco), HDS and Coraid, however for various reasons, some vendors declined to participate this round, others didn't qualify as original manufacturers, while the remaining few did not respond in the time requested.

Along with the requested product submissions, we also took the opportunity to ask each of the participating vendors five questions that would be useful during the evaluation process and buying decision:

  • Ecosystem: What are some of the supporting technologies needed to operate the AFA storage device?
  • Features: What built-in features are included with the purchase of the AFA storage device and how do they stand out from the competition?
  • Scalability: Starting with a minimal configuration, what steps are needed to expand an AFA as the amount of stored data grows?
  • System Management: What management tools are included with the AFA storage product? Are there management WebUIs, GUIs, plug-ins and command line tools available?
  • Incentives: What does the vendor offer that could sway a potential customer to purchase an AFA versus a hybrid or traditional disk storage solution?

Results Received

Overall, the responses from the storage vendors we reached out to were great. All answers were edited slightly for clarity, and in some cases heavily for brevity. Our goal was to offer the companies' representatives a chance to talk about their products in their own voice, while remaining neutral and staying away from comparing their solutions to others. Thus, each AFA system you'll read about stands on its own and it's up to you, the reader, to make the comparison based on the five criteria we've defined.

Additionally, we won't be making an evaluative judgement between the different AFA storage vendors. We believe that there is a significant amount of critical information here for potential buyers to start making some evaluative judgements of your own.

Lastly, we'd like to hear your feedback. What information did you find useful? What critical info was missing? How can we improve this guide for you? Please let us know by leaving a comment or sending us a message.

Further Reading: