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Oct 12 2016

Storage for the 21st Century: FUJITSU ETERNUS All-Flash Arrays (Part 2 of 2)


An old adage says IT departments only know three problems with storage – throughput, latency and capacity, or TLC for short. Fujitsu's brand-new ETERNUS AF line of arrays will cure the ills in all of these areas. The final part of our 2-part feature looks into the technical specs and shows how SMEs and large organizations can profit from the new products with the help of model use cases.

Our brand-new ETERNUS AF arrays were designed to overcome potential shortcomings of existing storage platforms and make the flash benefits available to large groups of users who previously thought flash storage was too expensive or not fit for the job at hand – or both. Unlike many competing products, ETERNUS AF models can accommodate a vast amount of usage scenarios ranging from VDI through mixed workloads and enterprise virtualization to high-speed transactions in e-commerce or stock trading. Today's product launch is a signal for customers and channel partners that it's time to move to the new technology before the rush begins – analysts predict that by 2020 AFAs will dominate storage infrastructures on a global scale.

To make the transition (and necessary purchase decisions) easier, we start out with two systems, the ETERNUS AF250 for smaller environments and the ETERNUS AF650 for the enterprise. For a first glance at the specifications, we provide the table below:


Table 1: Fujitsu's new ETERNUS AF all-flash arrays – overview and comparison

As you can see, both arrays sport what we call our performance architecture, albeit in different dosage forms: both feature the latest multi-core processors from Intel® running at 2.0 or 3.0 GHz that have been optimized for 64-bit symmetric multiprocessing. Main memory maxes out at 64 GB in the smaller and 256 GB in the bigger array. Host interfaces and bandwidths vary – customers may either opt for Gen5 fibre channel connections with a nominal throughput of 16 gigabits per second per direction or for iSCSI 10G (aka iSCSI over 10 GbE). Regarding drives, the ETERNUS AF250 will hold up to 24 SSDs with a maximum capacity of 3.84 TB each, bringing the raw system capacity to 92 TB, while the ETERNUS AF650 can be fitted with up to 96 SSDs of identical size that allow for 368 TB. However, these figures only apply at launch; as soon as we get to incorporate triple-level cell flash, the maximum capacity per SSD will rise to 8 TB, so that maximum raw capacities jump to 192 TB for the ETERNUS AF250 and 768 TB for the ETERNUS AF650. These raw specs may not seem too impressive at first, but as usual with storage systems, they don't tell the full story. To find out what an array truly has to offer, you have to look at the software and management capabilities – and that's what we do next.

Software Packages
As mentioned above, one major impediment for the adoption of early flash arrays was that they came with a completely different set of software and management tools than their HDD counterparts. As a result, even skilled administrators had to work their way through a considerable learning curve. Moreover, many tasks that were automated in environments with disk-based arrays now required manual intervention, thus raising administration costs.

ETERNUS AF systems are different by design. Like every other member of the ETERNUS family – whether disk-based, hybrid or flash – they support our comprehensive FUJITSU ETERNUS SF management suite. Better still, we're including a so-called "All-in FlashPack" with each freshly ordered system, so as to help customers through the initial installation and configuration process, simplify and accelerate time-consuming tasks, and add a number of comfort functions not found in competing products, namely

  • Local and Remote Copy – for onsite and offsite data replication
  • Automated QoS – a tool that helps prioritize data traffic to and from volumes according to the business relevance of the target application or process; storage administrators can pick their preferences based on classic bandwidth/IOPS metrics or I/O target response times, with the latter allowing for a more granular approach and guaranteed service levels
  • Selective Deduplication and Compression – many AFAs offer data reduction functions, but only Fujitsu allows administrators to flexibly choose which volumes should be subjected to dedup and compression. It should be noted here that both functions are implemented as a single process, with deduplication as the first step and compression as the second; so it's not possible to decouple both functions. If applied to all volumes, their combined effect will increase an array's storage capacity by an average factor of five depending on data types and use cases, to an effective 460 TB capacity for the smaller and 1.8 PB for the larger system. Maximum effective capacities that can be achieved with the upcoming 8 TB SSDs amount to nearly one petabyte (960 TB) for the ETERNUS AF250 and 3.8 PB for the ETERNUS AF650.

The All-in FlashPack is part of the management suite and provided by Fujitsu free of charge. Adequate HA/DR features such as Storage Cluster, Remote Mirroring/REC, Transparent Failover etc. are available for the regular premium. To learn more about the new systems' hard- and software capabilities, please see the data sheets here and here.

Model Use Cases
Assessing the value of a new storage platform can be a tough job, mainly because new and innovative features and functions don't always readily translate into clear and palpable business benefits. The following model usage scenarios explain potential effects of implementing ETERNUS AF systems in SME and enterprise environments. Both examples are based on the assumptions that the flash arrays support regular mixed workloads and that data reduction is inactive:

  • Our model SME wants a storage system that can digest 30 to 40 TB of data and deliver an average 90,000 IOPS. A suitable disk-based array would have to be equipped with 260 high-performance, 300 GB HDDs spinning at 15k RPM and use Fujitsu's Extreme Cache Pool (ECP) technology to arrive at a total of 34.6 TB of usable capacity and 90,000 IOPS. The average latency/response time in such a configuration, would be around 10 ms, and the entire setup would come in a 22U rack and draw more than 4,000 watts from the grid for power and cooling. By contrast, an ETERNUS AF250 equipped with 12 of the current maximum-size SSDs would offer 38 TB usable capacity and 350,000 IOPS at less than 0.02 ms latency. The resulting system is a 2U unit that requires 981 watts. In short, the ETERNUS AF250 provides 11 times higher density (9% more capacity), 4 times the bandwidth/IOPS rate, and 500 times faster responses but only requires one quarter of the energy needed for the disk arrays. And to top things off, maintenance costs for the ETERNUS AF amount to only 12.5% of those produced by its HDD counterpart. The price per IOPS clocks in at €1.66 for the classic storage system and €0.45 for the ETERNUS AF250 ($1.86 and $0.50, respectively) – so the costs per data transfer drop by 73%.
  • For our model enterprise, we assumed it had to store between 80 and 100 TB of info and provide a bandwidth of 150,000 IOPS. This time, the adequate HDD-based system would have to house 560 drives with 600 GB capacity and spinning at 15k; this would bring the usable capacity to 149 TB and IOPS to 152,000, with response times lower than 10 ms. This configuration might look attractive at first glance, but occupies 51U of rack space and draws 8,262 watts. A matching ETERNUS AF650 only needs 24 of the 3.84 TB drives to arrive at the required minimum capacity, delivers up to 760,000 IOPS random reads and latencies below 0.02 ms. Perhaps even more impressive is its sequential read rate of 21 GB/s, with the block size set to 128 KB – and yes, that's gigabytes per second. With all SSDs fitting into a 5U rack, the ETERNUS AF650 draws even less power than in the above example – a mere 874 watts. So to sum things up, here we have 10 times higher storage density, 5 times the IOPS, 500 times faster responses, achieved with 90% less energy and 87.5% less maintenance costs. Data transfer costs amount to €5.39 per IOPS for the disk-based and €0.91 for our flash array ($6.04 and $1.02) – so the savings potential amounts to more than 83%.

Fujitsu's new flash arrays ETERNUS AF250 and ETERNUS AF650 are easier to size than conventional disk-based storage systems, deliver multiple times the performance at orders-of-magnitude lower latencies, eat up less power, and come with a comprehensive management suite that supports automation wherever possible to cut administration costs. For customers who plan to upgrade their storage environments and need to stay ahead of the competition, there's hardly a better offer available – even if the initial investment is higher than anticipated.

René Hübel


About the Author:

René Hübel

Senior Product Marketing Manager Storage Solutions 


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