The IBM FlashSystem is a family of block-storage systems, with the 5000 and 5200 models making up the entry and mid-range offerings as evolutions of the previous Storwize V5000 systems. The FlashSystem 5000 & 5200 models are storage systems based on the IBM Spectrum Virtualize (SAN Volume Controller) virtualization software. There are two models in the 5000 family, the 5015 and 5035, and a 5200 model all with differences in configuration and available features. The 5015 system is the most basic model, and features a dual controller architecture without any scale out ability. The larger 5035 model can scale out to two pairs of controllers, and the 5200 model can scale out to four controller pairs.
Differences between the FlashSystem 5000 and 5200 include NVMe SSDs, Flash Core Modules (FCM), NVMeoF, support for SCM devices, and external storage virtualization. These features elevate the 5200 system as a more advanced mid-range product, while the 5015 and 5035 provide a range of competitive options as entry-level products.
The FlashSystem 5200 also differentiates itself by its compact 1U configuration. This is a notable difference between the other FlashSystem models, both the 5000 models and the higher end 7200 and 9200, as well as its predecessor the FlashSystem 5100. The compact design makes the 5200 a powerful appliance for the edge and other deployments with strict physical space constraints.
The three models (5015, 5035, and 5200) represent different price points and functionality. Feature enablement is different, which is primarily dependent on the different hardware (processors and memory) of the different models.
The management of the systems is a web-based GUI that has been developed for greater simplicity. Different than most other storage systems, the advanced features are pre-installed on the FlashSystem 5000 with some included in the base price of the systems. Additional cost features are enabled with license keys. The 5200 system features all inclusive software.
The virtualization of external storage systems from a variety of vendors has two forms that can be utilized. One is to explicitly map the LUNs (volumes) from the external storage for host access through the 5200 and the other is to migrate the data through the 5200 to internal or external storage to take advantage of the block-level virtualization with the advanced features for thin provisioning, wide striping, and the EasyTier automated data tiering. Since all the accesses are through the 5200 controllers, this type of virtualization has been called an “in-band” type of virtualization approach.
For high availability, FlashSystem runs in a paired configuration with custom clustering software. Clustering for a scale out configuration is supported for up to four pairs of controllers. (Note – IBM uses the term ‘node’ for a controller rather than a pair of controllers, which is different from most other vendors). Spectrum Virtualize also supports a standby node that become active after a single node failure or during a service action.
Cloud tiering allows volumes to be tiered to clouds including Amazon S3, OpenStack Swift, IBM Cloud, and IBM Cloud Object Storage.
The IBM 5000 and 5200 are targeted as midrange and entry level, general purpose, block storage systems with the ability to virtualize existing storage systems as a consolidation solution for the largest model. The different models allow customers to start with a smaller investment in storage and increase capacity with controller upgrades. With the VMware support and the ability to use SSDs and automatic tiering, the 5200 is an excellent storage solution for server virtualization. The capacity, advanced features and the performance give the 5200 capabilities much greater than its midrange positioning by IBM.
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The IBM FlashSystem 5000 and 5200 systems are high-performance, scale-out block storage systems with a range of features and capabilities that scale from entry level to mid-range. The major value for customers is with the block storage system and the ability to scale performance and capacity and the integration of Spectrum Virtualize software to virtualize externally attached storage systems in the largest 5200 model with transparent data migration in all models. The functionality provided is typically seen in high-end enterprise systems but with the 5200, is offered into mid-tier and entry markets.
Advanced features of replication, snapshot and tiering to clouds are very complete implementations. The FlashSystem added storage pooling with dynamic block assignment (called distributed RAID by IBM) but continues to use copy-on-write snapshot technology rather than redirect-on-write. We would expect this to change, providing the more efficient redirect-on-write snapshots.
The scale out capability is another advanced feature for block storage. Currently the system scales to two pairs of controllers in the 5035 and four in the 5200. This is adequate as a complement to the FlashSystem 7200 with a lower entry price. The storage virtualization features are the same as offered with the SVC and provide great customer value.
Evaluator Group believes the FlashSystem 5000 and 5200 systems to be part of a family that leads in functionality and performance for the midrange and entry block storage markets. The advanced features, scale-out capability, storage virtualization, and all-flash models are distinguishing for the lower end of the midrange and entry-level customers.