Research Library

Western Digital IntelliFlash – Product Brief

Last updated February 4th, 2019 for name change. Concise and unbiased 4-page overview of the features and functionality of NetApp EF570. Product Brief includes EvaluScale Reviewing Methodology. Download this free Product Brief now!

Overview

Western Digital (formerly Tegile) storage systems provide multi-protocol storage with either hybrid storage using spinning media and NAND flash solid-state or all flash storage.  Offerings include SAS attached flash storage devices or PCIe attached flash with NVMe protocol

The system design leverages common hardware platforms with the most recent models utilizing standard bridge-bay controllers and storage in a single 2U enclosure.  Storage controller features are delivered through a combination of open source ZFS, combined with Western Digital developed features, CLI and GUI.

Flash is used to enhance the performance of the log-structured filesystem at the core of Western Digital systems.  Use of Flash accelerates write performance by allowing the system to acknowledge a write and then coalesce data before storing it across solid-state drive modules.  Recently accessed data is stored in a separate Flash read cache, enhancing read performance.

Western Digital’s systems are multi-protocol storage designed for use in general purpose environments with high performance requirements, or multiple workloads running on the same storage system.  The multi-protocol file and block access provides both application and host connectivity options, which are particularly well suited to deployments where flexibility is an advantage.

All current Western Digital models are dual controller systems for high availability and include data protection features.  The Western Digital architecture includes multiple RAID levels, including dual (RAID 6) and triple parity RAID, along with two-way mirroring (RAID 1) and three way mirrors.  Space efficient snapshots are included with the system, which supports a nearly unlimited number of both read only and read-write snapshots.  Additionally, remote asynchronous replication over iSCSI is available.

Incoming data is written to flash acting as NVRAM and mirrored to the partner controller in HA configurations.  Next, a write acknowledgement is sent to the client.  In-line data deduplication and compression are available, using unique hashes as a first check and then a byte-wise comparison for final validation of data duplication.  The tracking of duplicate blocks of data is handled by the MASS storage controller, which also performs compression.  Data may be pinned to SSD for high performance volumes dedicated to specific applications.

In 2017 Western Digital announced new models that support dual-ported PCIe attached SSDs that utilize NVMe protocol.  Different endurance level SSDs are available for different usages at different price points.  Western Digital also uses the internal tiering software to support different classes of flash devices.

Usage

Western Digital systems are designed as general purpose, high performance storage systems competing with other midrange storage systems.  Target applications are those requiring high performance, particularly those with large capacity requirement.  Effective capacity with compression and deduplication is listed as 4X the raw capacity.

Current generation systems are highly available (HA), providing all hot-swap components with active / active controllers with symmetric LUN access.  This enables non-disruptive access during component failures and upgrades, including for host access paths or storage controllers.

The controller firmware supports FCP and iSCSI block access, along with CIFS and NFS file access via the HA controller nodes.  Western Digital has announced that NVMe over Fabric will be delivered in 2018.

Available in the latest embedded software release is support for VMware Web client and vCenter plugins.  The VMware support enables users to perform storage allocation along with performance and capacity management from within the VMware console.  Additionally, support for VMware VAAI provides enhanced performance with VMware based workloads, including thin reclamation, block zeroing and virtual machine cloning operations.

The ability to pin data into flash SSDs may further enhance performance.  Specific volumes or filesystem mount points for NFS may be designated as residing in flash.  When pinned, data must be copied onto the SSD cache but will remain in the cache until the system is restarted.

Western Digital which is a differentiating factor versus other next generation flash systems.  While there is asynchronous replication, there is no VMware SRA plugin, reducing the DR capabilities of Western Digital.

  • Multi-protocol, file and block access
    • FC
    • iSCSI
    • NFS
    • SMB 3.0
  • All software included in license price
    • Deduplication
    • Compression
    • Snapshots (nearly unlimited)
    • Replication (async)
  • Three product lines
    • All-Flash (Flash 2.5” SSD media as primary storage)
    • Hybrid (Flash cache + HDD as backing store)
  • SAS disks + SAS SSD in either 3.5” LFF or 2.5” SFF
  • PCIe attached SSDs with NVMe protocol in 2.5” SFF
  • IntelliFlash Architecture –
    • Meta-data from ZFS filesystem is cached, accelerating some operations
    • Active / Active dual controllers (NFS is active / passive)
    • RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 6, 3 parity RAID, 3 way mirror
    • Data may be pinned in flash, must be brought onto SSD, then remains until reboot
  • SSDs as Cache (in HD models with InfiniFlash as media, and Hybrid with HDD as media)
    • Separate read and write cache built from pool of SSDs
    • Default is 10 GB / SSD for write cache
    • Remainder of SSD for level 2 read cache
  • FlashVols
    • Volumes can be pinned in SSD for high performance access
  • Controller with disks, along with expansion chassis
    • Controllers are 2U, including disk. InfiniFlash module is 3U
  • VMware Integration
    • iSCSI VAAI – Thin provisioning, Block Zero, Full Copy, HW Assisted Locking
    • FCP VAAI – Thin provisioning, Block Zero, Full Copy, HW Assisted Locking
    • NAS VAAI – None
    • VMware vCenter – Web Management Console GUI plugin
  • Encryption with internally managed keys

Evaluator Group EvaluScale: IntelliFlash – 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 Western Digital IntelliFlash

Western Digital added management software and created multiple, dual-controller models to deliver an all-flash or hybrid system with low entry prices.  The maturity of the ZFS NAS implementation includes a full spectrum of file protocols, more than is usual in most products.  A full suite of advanced features are also available with the exception of tiering of LUNs to clouds/object storage and file-based tiering to NFS mounts and S3 targets.

The IntelliFlash is not a scale-out system, which means for increasing performance in parallel with capacity, a new controller pair (another model) must be installed.  Other competitive systems have implemented scale-out functionality for a more measured growth.  Evaluator Group believes that at some point Western Digital will add scale-out capabilities to the system as a competitive necessity.

Western Digital has done well with tuning the system for block performance and addressing needed characteristics for an all-flash storage system in enterprises.


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