The IBM FlashSystem 7200 is a mid-tier block-storage system capable of virtualizing all attached disks and other attached storage systems. FlashSystem utilizes IBM Spectrum Virtualize software as the underlying embedded software. The FlashSystem 7200 is an evolution of the previous Storwize V7000 system that has been re-branded to join a unified FlashSystem product line that includes 5000, 5100, 7200, and 9200 models. The 7200 starts as a dual controller system and scales out to four pairs of controllers. It supports up to 760 devices in a cabinet along with the ability to virtualize external attached storage systems. The system features data reduction of primary data included in the base price. Data is compressed inline using the processor chipset hardware as it is received in the 7200 controllers.
The FlashSystem 7200 was released in February 2020 and similar to the previous Storwize systems, offers NVMe over Fabric support, NVMe protocol for SSDs and Flash Core Modules (FCMs) that are also offered in the FlashSystem 9200. New to the 7200 models are four 8-core Intel Cascade Lake processors and support for storage class memory devices (SCM). IBM claims performance numbers of 2.3 million IOPS for a single system and up to 9.2 million IOPS for a scale out cluster with 4 controller pairs. The 7200 supports internal devices but can also add expansion enclosures of SAS attached SSDs or HDDs.
The FlashSystem 7200 is available as an all flash system, or as a hybrid system with the FlashSystem 7200H.
The functionality of the FlashSystem 7200 is the same as the IBM SAN Volume Controller (SVC). The management of the 7200 is a web-based GUI that has advanced over the earlier GUI adapted from the IBM XIV system. Different from most other storage systems, the advanced features are pre-installed on the 7200 with many being included in the base price of the system. Additional cost features are enabled with license keys.
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 FlashSystem 7200 and the other is to migrate the data through the FlashSystem 7200 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 7200 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).
Cloud tiering allows volumes to be tiered to clouds including Amazon S3, OpenStack Swift, and IBM Softlayer. IBM Cloud Object Storage is also a tiering target.
IBM also has an evergreen program where the controllers will be replaced with purchase of a three-year hardware and software maintenance agreement.
Connectivity options for the FlashSystem 7200 include 16 and 32 Gbps Fibre Channel with support for NVMeoF. Ethernet connectivity includes 10Gbps iSCSI and 25Gbps for iSCSI, iWARP, or RoCE.
The IBM FlashSystem 7200 is targeted as a mid-tier general purpose, block storage system with the ability to virtualize existing storage systems as a consolidation solution. With the VMware support and the ability to use SSDs and automatic tiering, the 7200 is an excellent storage solution for server virtualization. The large capacity, advanced features, and the performance give the 7200 capabilities much greater than its midrange positioning by IBM.
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The IBM FlashSystem 7200 system is a high-performance, scale-out block storage system with an all-flash model and a hybrid option, the 7200H. The major value for customer 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. The functionality provided is typically seen in high-end enterprise systems but with the 7200, is offered into mid-tier markets. High performance deduplication, compression, Flash Core Modules, SCM, and end-to-end NVMe makes this a very high performing system and will be a leading system for customers to consider.
Advanced features of replication, snapshot and tiering to clouds are very complete implementations. The 7200 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 four pairs of controllers but we would expect this to be increased at some point. The storage virtualization features are the same as offered with the SVC and provide great customer value.
Evaluator Group believes the FlashSystem 7200 to be a leading midrange block storage system with the advanced features, scale-out capability, storage virtualization, and use of high performance FCM, SSD, and SCM devices.