News 'Flash': Solid State-Only Storage Arrays from Pure Storage

A new Silicon Valley startup named Pure Storage, composed of Yahoo! And Veritas Software veterans, has put out its first product – the FlashArray, an enterprise-level storage array product with several interesting technologies and what seems to be fairly new for a storage array – the use of solid-state drives only, instead of traditional hard disks.



The FlashArray design consists of two main parts – a 2U-sized rackmountable controller box (the upper unit in this photo), and a storage shelf – also 2U-sized – which contains two NVRAM devices and 22 256GB multi-level cell (MLC) SSDs, all of those hot-swappable, for a base raw capacity of 5.5TB.

Each controller contains two Intel Xeon 6-core processors and 48GB of “working cache” RAM, with the ability to connect to up to four storage shelves at once with its four 6Gbps SAS connections. There are also four 8Gbps Fibre Channel ports available, a redundant pair of SSDs to store the operating system, and an empty expansion slot. In addition, it is also possible to connect these controllers together using 40Gbps QDR Infiniband connections.

The FlashArray FA-310.The FlashArray FA-310.Pure Storage is offering two configurations of the FlashArray – the FA-310, which is your basic single-controller single-storage shelf setup, and the FA-320, which fits a pair of storage shelves with two controllers. Performance looks to be good – Pure Storage quotes a 300,000 4K random read IOPS (Input/Output Operations Per Second) rate, and a 180,000 write IOPS rate, both on the FA-320 model. Whether it actually delivers those figures or not in real life remains to be seen.

The FlashArray FA-320.The FlashArray FA-320.Pure Storage claims that it built the FlashArray “from the ground up” to use flash memory, and it also developed the software that runs on the FlashArray, dubbed Purity Operating Environment. Purity employs a number of different techniques and methods to get the most performance and longetivity out of the installed solid-state drives, while a set of background services provide wear-levelling, health checks, optimizations, and other management tasks.

While Pure Storage has not released pricing to the public, one of the FlashArray's objectives is to provide a flash memory-based array at below the price of a traditional HDD array, so I would expect fairly reasonable prices. As SSD reliability and performance continues to rise, in a few years, it is likely that the majority of storage arrays sold will be flash-only units like the FlashArray, with only entry-level units still using hard drives. (Via StorageReview)