New PCIe flash cards
Along with all the new product releases, EMC also announced it was changing all of its flash product names so that they would all come under the EMC Xtreme Family mantle. Accordingly, its VFCache PCIe flash card line for servers will now be called XtremSF cards.
EMC announced six new XtremSF cards that include four enterprise-class multi-level cell (eMLC)-based cards and two single-cell level (SLC) cards. All of the PCIe cards are in half-height, half-length form factors.
The eMLC cards come in capacities of 550GB, 700GB 1.4TB and 2.2TB. The SLC cards come in 350GB and 700GB capacities.
The new XtremSF server flash cards offer up to 1.13 million I/Os per second performance using 128KB blocks and deliver two times throughput of their predecessors with eight PCIe I/O lanes. Using 4KB and 8KB block sizes, the flash cards offer up to 200,000 and 120,000 IOPS, respectively, according to Barry Ader, an EMC senior director of product management.
The new flash cards also reduce server CPU utilization by as much as 50 percent, because the flash controller handles the flash management functions instead of the server chip.
"They are twice as fast as anything else in the marketplace," Adder said.
Flash management suite
Along with a new SSD array and PCIe flash cards, EMC announced that later this year it will be releasing new software that can discover NAND flash in a data center and bring it under a single management interface.
The XtremSW Suite works with either MLC or SLC-based flash, and can offer the ability to pool resources. The software suite will offer advanced data services for flash to be used as memory and DAS, Ader said.
The software will also allow the flash cards to be used in conjunction with a storage area network (SAN) to boost performance.
Mark Peters, an analyst with research firm ESG, said it is the software that sets EMC's announcement apart from other NAND flash-based hardware, such as NetApp's all-SSD array or server flash cards from FusionIO. Vendors regularly leapfrog each other with the performance of their storage systems, he said.
"Much as there is a lot of brand loyalty in enterprise storage, the game will ultimately be won and lost on software, not hardware, which is why the two most critical parts of this announcement in my view .... [is] the XtremIO Software Suite ... and the fact that XtremIO is essentially a software platform and does not demand proprietary hardware," Peters said.
Steve Duplessie, founder and lead analyst at ESG, agreed, saying that users need to think about a portfolio-approach to flash -- in the server, in the array, or as an all-flash array -- using intelligent software to leverage those assets.
"EMC has had this philosophy since it first entered the flash game, and hasn't wavered," Duplessie said.
XtremSF 550GB and 2.2TB eMLC capacities are available globally, and the 700GB and 1.4TB capacities will be available in the second quarter of 2013. EMC said it will extend the XtremSF family with even higher capacity offerings in the future.
EMC offered no pricing on any of its products.
Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed. His email address is email@example.com.
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