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IBM FlashSystem 900 – Product Brief

Last updated December 28th, 2018 for annual review and updates. Concise and unbiased 4-page overview of the features and functionality of IBM FlashSystem 900. Product Brief includes EvaluScale Reviewing Methodology. Download the free Product Brief now!

Overview

The IBM FlashSystem solid-state storage systems are a family of all solid-state technology systems with the latest models being the 900, the Spectrum Virtualize based V9000 and the Spectrum Accelerate based A9000.  The FlashSystem storage systems come from the IBM acquisition of Texas Memory Systems in 2012.  The 900 has custom designed flash devices with special software to manage wear and lifespan called MicroLatency Modules.  The FlashSystem systems come from a heritage of systems designed for solid-state technology with the original systems based on DRAM technology.  The all solid-state systems benefit from the memory –based performance designs.

The FlashSystems have embedded software called Ramsan OS for the control and interface support.  Currently, advanced features such as replication and snapshots require an IBM Spectrum Virtualize or Spectrum Accelerate software on nodes to be installed in front of the FlashSystem 900 systems or integrated in the form of FlashSystem V9000 and A9000.

The features provided with the FlashSystem 900 without the added software used in V9000 and A9000 include:

  • Performance response time of 95 microseconds consistently
  • Seven year wear guarantee for MicroLatency modules
  • Compression – inline with flash module hardware
  • Encryption with SKLM key management
  • NVMe over Fabric using InfiniBand for high performance, RDMA fabric access

The flash-based solid state modules are RAID protected with two methods:  RAID 5 within the module (or optionally RAID 0 in the case of model 900) to protect from cell failures and RAID 5 across the modules called Variable Stripe RAID to protect from module failures.  The RAID protection method is called 2D Flash RAID.  In addition to redundant power, data paths, and control paths, ECC is used in the flash modules. A hot spare flash module is included and hot swap of the module allows for non-disruptive operation.

The FlashSystem 840 was introduced in December 2013 and with additional capabilities or changes compared to the earlier model 820.  The FlashSystem 900 (and V9000) were announced in February of 2015.

The update with TLC 3D NAND technology for the MicroLatency modules was announced in October of 2017.

Usage

The IBM FlashSystem 900 storage system is designed for high performance block access to data with limited advanced features.  Enterprise features are achieved with the FlashSystem 900 and added software on nodes for the FlashSystem V9000 and FlashSystem A9000.  The high performance, low latency of the FlashSystem 900 has targeted usage referenced for database applications with storage for Indexes, logs, and temporary databases.  Other performance demanding applications such as virtual desktops should benefit from the performance of FlashSystem.  With 16 Gb/s Fibre Channel and 40 Gb/s InfiniBand for the FlashSystem 900, the FlashSystem is high performance enterprise block storage.  The addition of NVMe over Fabric support with both Fibre Channel and InfiniBand moves the 900 system to the next generation of fabric access.

The FlashSystem 900 would be used in environments for application acceleration.  The FlashSystem V9000 and A9000 would be used as primary or tier 1 storage with the scaling and advanced features from the added software.

Evaluator Group EvaluScale™: FlashSystem 900 – SAN Storage

Evaluator Group product review methodology “EvaluScale” assesses each product within a specific technology area.  The definitions of the criteria and explanations of how products are reviewed can be found in the  Evaluator Series Evaluation Guide. Download the product brief now to view the Evaluscale for this product.

Evaluator Group Opinion: Differentiating elements for IBM FlashSystem 900

The IBM FlashSystem 900 is a solid-state system supporting block storage.  The systems are typically used in environments with high performance requirements or multiple workloads where high speed random I/Os are required.  High availability is designed into the systems with redundancy of components and access paths.  Advanced features such as replication and snapshot are not included but are offered with the FlashSystem A9000 and FlashSystem V9000, which used the FlashSystem 900 as the underlying storage.

The extremely low latency of the FlashSystem 900 is a leading reason for selecting the system for block storage application acceleration.  IBM continues to invest in advancing the technology of the MicroLatency modules, which removes the risk for customers of having system from a company that may not be around to support or update the product.

Evaluator Group has tested the performance of the FlashSystem and believe it will be a good solution for customers in enterprise environments, primarily for acceleration of critical applications.


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