PureStorage unveiled their next unique product offering at their user conference on March 14, 2016 – the FlashBlade. The product is in an early support phase and will not be available until sometime in the second half of 2016.
FlashBlade is a storage system for unstructured data, currently supporting file access using the NFSv3 protocol. At some point in the future, protocol support for NFSv4 and CIFS/SMB will be added. Also to be added is support for object storage with the S3 protocol. No specific dates for these additions have been disclosed.
The FlashBlade is an early-stage product with limited data services. Features such as replication or snapshot are not currently available. The initial usages for FlashBlade will be for acceleration of file access storage with expanded use as features and protocols are added.
There are up to 15 blades in the 4U chassis with a minimum of 7 blades. Data is protected using a RAID 6 parity distributed across blades. Two capacity blades will be available initially, an 8TB blade and 52TB blade. Each blade contains a single processor, flash memory chips, a flash controller, DRAM, NVRAM, and an FPGA used for data movement and encryption. Blades are interconnected using an internal Ethernet switch running a custom protocol with aggregate bandwidth of 2.6TB/s. The switch is part of a backplane card that connects to each blade through high-density connectors. There are dual fabric manager processors connected to the switch card that manages data distribution and I/O balancing as well as providing the external network connections using TCP/IP and NFSv3.
The internal distributed (across the blades) filesystem is implemented using a database with key-values to serve as mapping tables to files. The key-value table is in DRAM with the resolution of location of files retrieved from tables stored with data on NAND flash. PureStorage refers to this as an underlying object storage implementation, which can be confused with object storage access that is not yet available. The database implementation for the filesystem leads to the nearly infinite scaling claim. The expected service time is 200 microseconds for access in the all flash implementation.
Key messages for FlashBlade are elasticity with the scale out capability and the economics of flash with data reduction resulting in a current price of <$1/GB that is expected to be reduced every 6 months.
PureStorage has made a very early announcement of the FlashBlade. Use of flash for file and object access is inevitable as the price of flash continues to drop and data reduction becomes prevalent. Pure has been the first to showcase a new system design specifically with flash for storage. The system currently is a NAS solution with NFSv3 protocol support. Plans for additional protocols will make the system more widely applicable. The limited feature set available will limit deployments until key features are added.
Performance and cost would appear to make this an exceptional system and will become a competitive target. Scale out is currently limited to the number of blades in a chassis but will expand over time. Competitors will focus on the early version of the product with limitations.
We have been advocating for newly designed solid state based storage in file environments and Pure has now delivered. This will be the competitive level for NAS systems going forward. The economics of flash have made this possible and will continue to improve. Although previewed very early, the product will set the stage for consideration of high performance NAS and cost expectations.