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SanDisk Unveils InfiniFlash All-Flash Array, Priced At $1 Per GB

By - Source: SanDisk

SanDisk unveiled its InfiniFlash all-flash storage system yesterday during a live webcast. The most compelling part of the announcement was that InfiniFlash will be available for less than $1 per GB, without factoring in the obligatory compression and deduplication. SanDisk notes the price will be $2 a GB without compression and deduplication but with bundled software included, which is well below competing solutions.  Currently, all-flash arrays are relegated to the upper end of the performance spectrum due to cost constraints. The emergence of SanDisk's new class of flash storage devices with its disruptive price point, termed 'Big Data Flash' by IDC, could enable a shift away from standard scale-out HDD architectures. IDC maintains that flash-based storage results in a 50 to 80 percent reduction in total TCO (total cost of ownership) due to reduced servers, software licensing, power, heat and cooling requirements. IDC predicts that big data flash products will lead to large-scale storage applications for flash in hyperscale and other data center deployments. 

SanDisk is leveraging its vertical integration to rethink the entire concept of flash-based storage subsystems. InfiniFlash (video available here) comes in three different configurations: IF100, IF500 and IF700.

The IF100 is geared for hyperscale and OEM applications and comes in a bare configuration with no associated software. The IF500 comes with the InfiniFlash operating system, CEPH object storage (SanDisk's CEPH optimizations boosted performance from 20,000 IOPS to 250,000 IOPS), and erasure coding. The IF700 adds ION Accelerator software into the mix for block-based high-performance applications. The enclosure comes with an SDK and supports CLI and RESTful APIs.  

According to SanDisk, these products offer 5x the density, 50x the performance and 4x the reliability of a traditional disk-based array, all while consuming 80 percent less power. The InfiniFlash also sports impressive performance specifications with over a million IOPS (780,000 sustained) delivered under 1 ms of latency, and 7 GB/s of sequential throughput. The entire system pulls 400-500 watts depending on the workload, and a maximum of 750 Watts.

SanDisk achieved the low price point by delivering an all-flash product that is unique to other options on the market. From an architectural standpoint, the InfiniFlash platform can be described best as a JBOF, or Just a Bunch Of Flash. The InfiniFlash array does not feature any compute power, it just provides access to a massive 512 TB of flash packed into a 3U chassis.

The lack of compute power allows customers to bring their own compute and scale it independently of the flash storage solution. This model meshes well with the current trend of disaggregation in the data center. Providing one centralized storage pool also breaks the storage solution from the bonds of typical upgrade cycles. These usually entail upgrading storage along with the rest of the server for each upgrade cycle. The InfiniFlash array is designed to provide a 10 year+ lifecycle, which will outstrip the normal lifecycle of other components.

The box connects via standard 6Gb/s SAS, and there is also the option to upgrade to 12Ggb/s SAS. SAS has many ingrained features that allow it to work well as a rack-level fabric, and two hot-swappable 4-port SAS expander cards provide connections for up to eight servers and offer high availability. All of the other components, such as fans, power supplies and flash modules, are also hot-swappable and redundant to provide uninterrupted operation during servicing.

64 separate 8 TB LUNs are presented to the connected servers, and all servers have simultaneous access to the entire capacity of the chassis. An 8 TB InfiniFlash card houses the requisite flash and controller to power each of the LUNs. These cards appear similar to standard PCIe SSD designs, and the design is likely borne of the fruits of SanDisk's Fusion-io acquisition. We also note a row of capacitors along the bottom of each module that provide power-fail protection. SanDisk is not disclosing the type of NAND or controllers used on the InfiniFlash cards for the time being.

The system administrator is free to provision and allocate storage resources and services. Compression, deduplication, and encryption will run on the connected servers. One of the hottest applications for flash-based storage in the data center is to use it in various caching/tiering models to accentuate large HDD repositories. Administrators can also use InfiniFlash in this fashion, for instance storing archived data, or second and third copies of data, on spindled tiers.  

We interviewed Ravi Swaminathan, Vice President and General Manager of SanDisk Systems and Software Solutions group, shortly after the presentation. We inquired about the platforms' ability to scale-up or scale-out and Swaminathan indicated both options are available.

The maximum capacity of the chassis is 512 TB, but users can simply leave some flash card slots unpopulated and expand capacity as needs grow. There are also plans to bring 16 TB cards to market, which would provide 1 Petabyte of storage in the 3U chassis, though there is no definitive release date announced at this time. The multiple expansion paths lend the InfiniFlash both a scale-up and scale-out architecture.

Swaminathan also expanded on SanDisk's mission. SanDisk has had a singular focus on flash storage for over 26 years and is devoted to bringing flash to more use cases and applications, and InfiniFlash is an extension of that goal.

SanDisk made a string of strategic acquisitions that include Pliant, FlashSoft, Schooner, SMART Storage Systems, and Fusion-io. These companies provided SanDisk with many of the key components and knowledge needed to transform the company into an enterprise storage behemoth, and SanDisk plans to continue its evolution into a complete storage and software solutions provider.

The InfiniFlash system has already been in use with SanDisk's OEM partners, and is currently available.

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