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IBM FlashSystem A9000 and A9000R – Product Brief

Last updated December 28th, 2018 for annual review and updates. This IBM FlashSystem A9000 and A9000R Product Brief is a concise report on the features and functionality of this product. Includes EvaluScale Reviewing Methodology. Download the free Product Brief now

Overview

The IBM FlashSystem A9000 and A9000R solid-state storage systems are based on the FlashSystem 9000 combined with Spectrum Accelerate software executing on grid controllers (Intel-based servers).  The A9000 system has three grid controllers with the FlashSystem 900 in an active-active-system.  The A9000R is a rack system with four grid controllers and two FlashSystem 900s in the base configuration and the ability to scale within the rack in increments on a single grid controller and another FlashSystem 9000.  The Hyper-Scale software feature allows up to 144 systems to be managed as a single entity with migration for balancing systems.

The A9000 and A9000R are based on Spectrum Accelerate software, which is derived from the XIV system.  With the mature software base, the FlashSystem A9000 and A9000R has the advanced features from the successful XIV.  Added with the A9000 and A9000R is deduplication and compression to increase effective capacity (and reduce cost).  The HyperSwap feature provides active-active stretched clusters.

As a high performance flash system, the A9000 and A9000R has 250 microseconds response time – even with the inline deduplication and compression active.  IBM quotes 900,000 IOPs for the A9000 and 2.4 million IOPs for the A9000R with 4K I/Os and 70% reads and 30% writes.

IBM only quotes effective capacity with the two models using a 5.26:1 data reduction however; the systems use IBM MicroLatency modules that come in 3.6, 8.5, and 18 TB capacities using 3D NAND TLC.  There are 12 MicroLatency modules per FlashSystem 900.

The grid controllers differ between the A9000 and A9000R by the number of processor cores.

IBM positions the A9000 as a building block for cloud storage.  The A9000R is positioned for larger enterprise environments.

The features provided with the A9000 and A9000R include:

  • Effective capacity range of the A9000 is from 110TB to 900TB.
  • Effective capacity range of the A9000R is from 360TB to 1.8PB
  • Synchronous and asynchronous remote replication
  • Quality of service at pool, volume or host level
  • Multi-tenancy support of isolation of access
  • Role-based administration
  • Encryption with support for key management software SKLM or internally managed keys
  • 3-site replication
  • HyperSwap active-active stretched clusters
  • VAAI
  • VVOLs
  • VASA 2.0
  • Redirect on write snapshots
  • New GUI – advanced beyond the original XIV GUI.
  • Migration from externally attached storage
  • Always on compression and deduplication. Note that the MicroLatency Modules in the FlashSystem 900 have inline hardware-based compression as well.

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.

Usage

The IBM FlashSystem storage systems are designed for general-purpose usage where high performance is required.  Targeted usages referenced for the FlashSystem A9000 systems are as building blocks for private or service provider clouds.  The A9000R system are targeted for larger enterprise environments for performance demanding applications such as virtual desktops.  With 16 Gb/s Fibre Channel and 10 Gb/s iSCSI, the FlashSystem uses high performance interfaces for block storage.

Evaluator Group EvaluScale: FlashSystem A9000 and A9000R – 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 A9000 and A9000R

The IBM FlashSystem A9000 and A9000R are solid-state systems supporting block storage using Spectrum Accelerate software, which is based on the successful XIV system.  The systems are typically used in environments with high performance requirements or multiple workloads where high speed random I/Os are required.  The systems have mature feature sets from the XIV and have introduced inline compression and deduplication to be competitive with other all-flash systems.

The scale-out capabilities of up to 15 grid controllers in a system and up to 144 systems managed as a single entity with HyperScale, give the A9000 the largest scale-out of any of the enterprise all-flash systems.   The scale-out capability will change the way additional storage is acquired, giving greater economic benefit for customers.  From a challenging standpoint, the packaging of the A9000 is very large (like the other FlashSystem offering, the V9000), which is much greater than competitors.  In addition, the VASA provider is external to the storage system and must run in a virtual machine.

Evaluator Group believes the A9000 will be very successful for IBM, especially with customers that had previously purchased XIV systems.  Use in private/hybrid cloud environments will be an opportunity as well for many IBM customers.  Evaluator Group has yet to test the performance of the FlashSystem A9000 but believe it will be a good solution for customers in enterprise environments.


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