New all-flash-array: SanDisk’s Infiniflash

Interesting development from SanDisk. Not quite an M&A bit, but an attempt at accelerating adoption of non-spinning storage by bringing out a proof of concept product in a few flavors. They are aiming at $2/GB for this system.

This is an array product though, so you need to attach it to a set of servers. Also, for something this large, the spec’s are kind of disappointing. 7GB/s maximum and 1M IOPs. Density up to 1/2 PB in 3U. We are currently at 1/4 PB in 4U, combined with a massive IO/compute/network capability, so that part is interesting. Our next gen will put that to shame though.

Not for nothing, but siFlash did 30+GB/s at much more than 1M IOPs (in an end user/real world test) 2 years ago. Indeed our new range of Cadence devices are … significant steps up from this … . Sadly, for that test, thanks to SanDisk’s acquisitive nature, our supplier for SSDs was bought, they jacked up the price of our drives, and drove the customer to seek other, low performance and low cost options. I don’t precisely know how they are doing, but I get the sense that they may realize you can’t fake performance, which is a problem if what you need, is, performance.

What makes this interesting is that this is a shot across the bows of Violin, Kaminario, Violin, Pure, Skyera, and many others. We don’t see this as particularly competitive in our space (Big Data appliances), as its a pure storage array. Moreover, our spinning disk systems do 7GB/s sustained, have integrated computers, 10GbE, 40GbE, IB, and in very short order, something much faster.

Moreover, Wikibon and others predict that the SAN market (that this is very much a play for) is in decline. Building new SAN elements today probably isn’t a good long term strategy.

But, understand what SanDisk wants to do. They want to spur adoption of flash. They want to be able to generate sufficient demand so that they can build more flash, more flash fab lines (not cheap!).

There are many contenders for the next generation of non-volatile memory (NVM). All of these contenders may have interesting advantages or drawbacks relative to flash. Flash’s big one is the limited number of write cycles. This said, I don’t see flash going away any time soon. Industry momentum is built up by folks like SanDisk pushing hard on things like this.

If anything, this will likely spur other vendors to either build or buy their own version of this. Moreover, with the advent of Big Data, dumb arrays are basically on the way out as Wikibon (and many others) have noted. This is part of why folks like EMC were looking for new things to freshen their business last year. They are arrays and filer heads. And other things in the federated company, but thats the storage side.

So I expect this announcement to light fires under folks like WD/HGST (hey, look, they just bought Amplidata), Seagate (Xyratex), SanDisk (FusioIO). Toshiba still hasn’t gotten into this game.

But I expect things like this to drive more M&A.

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