IBM Unveils New FlashSystem Storage Arrays
February 17, 2021 Alex Woodie
IBM last week took the wraps off three new FlashSystem storage devices, including the enterprise-oriented FlashSystem 5200 as well as two entry-level offerings, the FlashSystem 5015 and 5035. All three devices make use of speedy NVMe flash drives in the primary enclosure, but can be outfitted with traditional spinning and less-speedy solid state drives (SSDs) in the expansion enclosures.
Since early 2020, IBM has been phasing out its Storwize disk array line and emphasizing the FlashSystem line that replaces it. As part of that exercise, IBM renamed existing arrays, including the Storwize V5100, which became the FlashSystem 5100. It also rolled out new high-end systems, including FlashSystem 7000 and 9000 series.
On February 9, IBM announced three new arrays, including the new FlashSystem 5200, which will occupy a spot in the middle of the lineup. IBM says the new system is an “entry-level enterprise” offering, which is another way to say that it’s not the top-of-the-line all-flash storage array. (That honor would go to the new FlashSystem 7000 and 9000 series announced in 2020, including the FlashSystem 7200 and FlashSystem 9200.)
The FlashSystem 5200, like the FlashSystem 5100 that IBM announced last year, sports a control enclosure that is equipped with two “node” canisters, each of which contains an eight-core processor and memory caches of 32 GB, 128 GB, or 256 GB. The control enclosure includes standard 10Gb copper iSCSI connectivity, with options for 32/16 Gb Fibre Channel, 12 Gb SAS, or 25/10 Gb optical iSCSI connections.
Users can choose from three different types of 2.5-inch SSDs to fill the 12 slots in the primary control enclosure. At the high end, they can select NVMe drives equipped with storage-class memory, which will be the fastest and highest performing. These drives range from 375GB to 1.6TB of capacity. They can also opt to use IBM FlashCore Modules, which feature built-in compression and encryption that, per IBM, do not impact data access latencies. These drives range from 4.8TB to 38.5TB each. Finally, they can choose regular, run-of-the-mill “industry-standard” NVMe drives, which come in capacities of 800GB, 1.92TB, 3.84TB, 7.68TB and 15.36TB.
The FlashSystem 3500 is expandable through a series of enclosure options. There is a small form factor (SFF) enclosure that includes room for up to 24 2.5-inch SAS drives; a large form factor (LFF) enclosure that supports up to 12 3.5-inch SAS drives; and a high-density (HD) enclosure that can support up to 92 3.5-inch SAS drives. These drives can hold a mix of NVMe, enterprise-class hard drives spinning at 10,000 RPG, and archival-class hard drives spinning at 7.2000 RPM
All told, up to 748 drives can be supported directly with the expansion controllers, which connect via SAS 12Gb connectors, IBM says. There is also an option to cluster four FlashSystem 5200 systems together, which bumps that drive count up to 2,992. IBM says drives of the same form factor can be intermixed within an enclosure.
Like all FlashSystem devices, the FlashSystem 5200 uses the IBM’s Spectrum Virtualize software to manage the data and the storage environment. It sports “thin provisioning” features to optimizes efficiency by allocating storage among users. It supports block de-duplication, compression, and dynamic mirroring. FlashCopy is supported, as is HyperSwap. Storage is protected with RAID 1, 5, and 6, and encryption is available. The storage array will be available on February 19.
Meanwhile, IBM is bolstering its offerings in the entry-level category with the launch of FlashSystem 5015 and 5035.
The FlashSystem 5015 supports two node canisters, each with a two-core processor and either 16 GB or 32GB of cache. It has slots for 12 3.5-inch drives or 24 2.5-inch drives, and sports standard 1Gb copper iSCSI connectivity, with options for 16Gb Fibre Channel, 12 Gb SAS, and 25/10 Gb optical iSCSI connectors.
A FlashSystem 5015 control enclosure can be connected via 12Gb SAS connectors to up to four FlashSystem 5000 enclosures. When four HD enclosures are selected, the total drive count comes to 392 drives per system.
The FlashSystem 5035 offers the same specs as the FlashSystem 5015 except for a couple of areas. For starters, the processor in each of the two node canisters has six cores, instead of two. On the expansion front, the FlashSystem 5035 supports up to 20 2U FlashSystem 5000 expansion enclosures or up to eight 5U FlashSystem 5000 expansion enclosures, which can support up to 504 drives. It can also be clustered in a two-way system, doubling the drive to 1,008.
The FlashSystem 5015 and FlashSystem 5035 both feature Spectrum Virtualize software, with support for thin provisioning in data reduction pools, as well as Easy Tier, FlashCopy, and Remote Mirroring features. The additional processing horsepower of the FlashSystem 5035 give it the capability to handle deduplication, compression, and encryption tasks, as well as system clustering and HyperSwap capabilities. Both offerings support dual-active node canisters with mirrored cache, and dual-port drives with automatic drive failure detection (also available on the FlashSystem 5200). Supported RAID levels include 1, 5, and 6.
The FlashSystem 5015 and 5035 become available on February 19, expect for certain features.