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SanDisk takes on big data flash market with new platform

Posted: 30 Mar 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:InfiniFlash? data centre? SSD? flash? big data?

A new platform targeting an emerging market dubbed by research firm IDC as "big data flash" has been revealed by a vendor to take on data centres directly.

SanDisk recently announced its InfiniFlash storage system, which aims to provide flash-based capacity for big data and hyperscale workloads at a price point competitive with spinning disc. Rather than use SSDs, InfiniFlash uses 55 hot swappable cards, each with 8TB of flash capacity, to provide 512TB of raw flash storage in a 3U enclosure. The unit can connect with as many as eight off-the-shelf servers using SAS connections.

At a live web cast for the product launch, Eric Burgener, research director of IDC storage practice, said there is a large market opportunity that demands a category of storage that does not exist. The characteristics of big data flash storage include performance consistently better than hard drives at scale with hundreds of petabytes; under a $1 per gigabyte; and, implementations that meet standard enterprise requirements such as scalability and availability. He said target applications include big data environments, including analytics, as well as content repositories and media streaming.

In an interview with EE Times, Gary Lyng, SanDisk's senior director for product marketing, said the design of InfiniFlash was driven by input from users such as Web 2.0 customers and ultimately focused on being simple while addressing the cost of flash per gigabyte. Another key design requirement was making it hot swappable and redundant.

SanDisk has incorporated some of its existing technologies into the InfiniFlash platform, including those that have been acquired in recent years. It includes SanDisk's ION Accelerator software stack from Fusion-io for block storage applications. For scale-out block and object storage workloads, it uses the open source CEPH platform to provide enterprise-class data services. It also includes development libraries and a software development kit that allow customers to optimise applications for use with the system.

Three versions of the platform, the IF100, IF500 and IF700, were launched. They vary in terms of what software and services are available on top of the hardware. The IF100 targets OEMs, integrators and resellers that want to include the storage array as part of their own offerings, while the IF500 is intended for scale-out storage applications, and includes an optimised version of CEPH. The IF700 integrates Ion Accelerator technology and targets high-performance applications.

Roark Hiloman, engineering fellow with SanDisk's systems and software solutions group, said the individual flash chips are designed to be used in aggregation to get the performance benefits. The primary design challenge was achieving the density. "A lot of work went into the firmware to get 8TB."

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