IBM Gooses FlashSystem V840 Flash Arrays, Cuts Prices
November 3, 2014 Timothy Prickett Morgan
The FlashSystem 840 is a lot of machine for most IBM i shops, but the potent combination of the Storage Virtualization Controller (SVC) that IBM has been using to front-end disk arrays to provide them with snapshotting, deduplication, and other advanced features for many years is something that many enterprise-class IBM i shops should be taking a look at for their storage capacity and I/O needs.
In a series of announcements last week, IBM made some tweaks to the FlashSystem hardware and the software stack that runs atop it.
In announcement letter 114-179, IBM is expanding the connectivity options available in the FlashSystem V840 enclosure that mates the FlashSystem 840 array to the SVC controller unit. (The V tells you it has the dual SVC controllers lashed to the single FlashSystem 840 array.) The connectivity enhancements include the addition of 8 Gb/sec and 16 Gb/sec Fibre Channel links out of the box to controllers on the servers the machine feeds as well as 10 Gb/sec Ethernet ports that support either the iSCSI or the Fibre Channel over Ethernet (PCoE) protocols. The updated V840 Control Enclosure Model AC1 supports the real-time data compress algorithms that IBM recently added to the storage array, and has two optional data compression cards to boost the performance of that compression. The four-port 8 Gb/sec FC adapter costs $1,999, the two-port 16 Gb/sec FC adapter costs $2,899, and the four-port 16 Gb/sec FC adapter costs $5,500. The four-port 10 Gb/sec adapter for the FlashSystem V840 costs $2,899.
In announcement letter 214-429 the V7.4 release of the FlashSystem V840 software has been tweaked so it can run the real-time compression algorithms on the second core in the controller as opposed to one as in the prior release. I think IBM meant to say second processor socket, because the V840 enclosure comes with two eight-core Xeon E5-2600 v2 processors (those are in the “Ivy Bridge” generation).
This improved compression performance is only available on FlashSystem enclosures with the 9846-AC1 and 9848-AC1 designations, the first being a fixed configuration and the second being a scalable configuration. And you have to have at least one of the compression acceleration cards in the system. The software update now allows for Remote Mirroring functions (also known as Metro/Global Mirror) to be used over Ethernet links and is made possible by IBM licensing SANSlide network bandwidth optimization software from Bridgeworks. This technology also now allows for FlashSystem V840 arrays to remote mirror to Storwize disk arrays (which can also have flash modules but which have nowhere near the performance of the V840) as well as other V840 arrays. (It was possible to do V840-to-V840 mirroring before now.)
The software update also allows for up to 255 FlashCopy consistency groups per system, up from 127 with the prior release. IBM is also adding an eight byte extension to the drive sector format (from 512 bytes to 520 bytes) to add a data integrity field, or DIF, that is used to do CRC error checking on the data as it moves from server and flash and back again. Finally, the V7.4 FlashSystem software has a new volume protection feature that will only allow for idle data volumes to be deleted; active volumes cannot therefore be accidentally deleted and therefore screw up applications. Pricing for the software was not revealed. Both the updated enclosure and the software will be available on December 12.
The FlashSystem V840 delivers anywhere from 526,000 to 2.52 million I/O operations per second, depending on how many building blocks you scale to. (You can do from one to four.) With a four-block system, you get 19.2 GB/sec of aggregate bandwidth using 128 KB files as a test and latency of 200 microseconds. With the real-time compression against 4 KB files, you get to increase the effective capacity of the array rises to 1.6 PB with 5:1 compression, but the IOPS drop down from 2.52 million to 1.2 million. Obviously, you don’t have to buy that much capacity. But IBM sure would like you to.
Finally, IBM has also reduced the prices on the FlashSystem V840 enclosures in the United States, Canada, and Europe. In the U.S., in announcement letter 314-114, prices on the fixed unit, model 9846-AC1, were cut by 17.8 percent to $27,500, and on the scalable unit, model 9848-AC1, were cut by 15.2 percent to $33,425. In Canada, the fixed V840 chassis costs $32,400 in Canadian dollars, down 6.4 percent, and the scalable model costs $39,400 in loonies as well, down 3.2 percent. IBM announced the European price cut, but did not provide the amount of the cut or the current or former prices.