The all-flash space has been abuzz lately with a slew of vendors announcing new developments:
There’s a theme here: Bigger, Faster and Cheaper.
This mostly results from new hardware technologies (compute), increasing flash capacities and flash cost reductions. Newer product functionalities are catching up to traditional ones, and traditional products (like HP 3PAR, NetApp FAS) are optimizing the code for flash and taking advantage of their preexisting data services and application integrations. Each vendor is playing catch-up to the other.
Still, most vendors have similar features—dedupe, compression, snapshot, clones, replication, LUN/volume-based QoS and application and cloud integration—so it’s difficult to differentiate themselves. Hence, marketing starts to innovate more than engineering, spawning messages like these:
None of these vendors have taken a “completely different” approach—and their superiority has an expiration date. To be truly different, traditional vendors have to develop wholly new products without any baggage. But even younger organizations base their products on 30-year-old constructs and abstractions that don’t fit in the modern datacenter—mainly LUNs, volumes and their associated challenges.2
But it’s always been the companies that take the “completely different” approach that shine. Data Domain defined a new model for backups. Even NetApp took a filesystem approach to storage (for file and block), enabling a completely different implementation of technologies like snapshot, clones, dedupe (primary storage) etc. Now, everyone has started to have some sort of filesystem layer, but it took a long time for them to get there.
And though starting out different is great, it is important for any vendor to stay different and keep reinventing itself (through acquisition or innovation) based on changing needs—rather than getting bogged down by a “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality. As far as the all-flash market is concerned, we need products with a constantly “completely different” approach to change the game and bring new possibilities. We need to design from the ground up for the modern datacenter (and modern applications), rather than for flash.
After all, flash is just a medium, and mediums change. Vendors need to prepare for what comes next.
Satinder Sharma is a storage and virtualization expert certified on Tintri, Sun, NetApp, Microsoft and VMware technologies, helping customers design their virtualization and cloud solutions using Tintri technology. He is based out of Toronto, Canada.
1. I say this even though the flash layer and spinning drives have a completely different block layout on Tintri VMstore with the flash layer designed specifically with flash in mind.↩
2. These constructs worked great for some traditional workloads, but they require a lot of assumptions for architecting storage in a modern datacenter (RAID group size, block size, queue depths, LUN/volume sizes, LUN/volume quantities, number of workloads per LUN/volume, grouping based on data protection needs, etc.).↩
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