New all-flash storage going to be game-changer: Dell

  • New storage arrays could potentially offer customers up to 75% in cost-savings
  • Combines two different SSD technologies to drive down TCO, Dell exec says

New all-flash storage going to be game-changer: DellDELL Inc will be banking on its new Dell Compellent All Flash Storage Arrays to extend its market share in the flash storage market.
 
“The new all-flash arrays are definitely going to be a game-changer. They lower cost dramatically," Dell Malaysia country leader of enterprise William Tan (pic) told Digital News Asia (DNA) in an exclusive interview with recently.
 
According to Tan, everyone was excited when SSDs (solid state drives) – or drives that use no mechanical components, relying on flash memory – first came out in the market. However, the excitement did not translate into huge sales as SSD is expensive.
 
“We are talking about 25 times more expensive than conventional disks,” he claimed.
 
He said that Dell’s new all-flash Compellent arrays, which were launched over six months ago, could potentially offer customers up to 75% savings compared with other enterprise-grade SSDs.
 
“In some cases, they can also be cheaper than conventional disks," he claimed.
 
Citing an example, Tan said that should a customer want a conventional storage system that can meet 40,000 IOPS (input/ output operations per second), the customer would need a 20U rack comprising 15,000 rpm (revolutions per minute) fibre channel disks.
 
He added that by using Dell’s all-flash storage arrays, the customer would only need 6U of rack space. Under this setup, the customer can save close to 50% in costs.
 
However, he also highlighted that these estimations do not take into account the storage capacity.
 
Flash combo
 
Tan said one of the reasons Dell is able to offer its new all-flash storage solutions at a significantly lower price is that it uses a combination of flash technologies.
 
Today's SSD products consist of one of two technologies: The single-level cell (SLC) or the multi-level cell (MLC). An SLC is mainly used by the enterprise segment while MLC is mainly used by the consumer segment.
 
“SLC is like the mother of all SSD technologies. It is very fast and it's actually one bit using one cell.
 
“With an MLC, where in a single cell you have multiple bits, the good news is that it is five times cheaper than SLCs, but the drawback is that processing is very high and it tends to slow down the disks,” Tan explained.
 
He said Dell “discovered” that the main factor causing MLC slowdown were the ‘writes.’ (In every application, for example point of sale, whenever a transaction is conducted, there is a read-and-write to the disk).
 
“Some smart engineers figured out that it is the writes that were causing MLC to be slow. The reads are almost the same for MLC as they are for SLC,” he added.
 
With a deeper understanding of SLC and MLC technologies, as well as Dell’s US$960-million acquisition of Compellent in 2011, Dell's new all-flash arrays are able to ‘tier’ between reads and writes.
 
This means that when a user creates a transaction or writes data, it will be processed using the high-performance, reliable SLC drives. However, as the data ages and is not used often anymore, it will be automatically moved to the lower-cost MLC drives.
 
“By using SLC for writes and MLC for reads, we can help enterprises lower the cost of ownership of an enterprise-grade SSD dramatically,” Tan claimed.
 
2014 game-plan
 
New all-flash storage going to be game-changer: DellTan’s immediate plan is to take advantage of the product's cost benefits to help expand Dell’s market share.
 
“This is a game-changer and we expect to gain market share. It will take our competitors some time to catch up ... . We see a window (of opportunity) for this year at least,” he said.
 
According to a Dell statement, citing survey results from ITIC/ Storage Strategies NOW, the company is the top choice among IT leaders who have selected it as the leading vendor for deploying flash/ SSDs.
 
The survey also revealed that 32% of respondents have definitive plans to deploy SSDs and 43% respondents were spending US$101,000 to US$500,000 annually on storage resources.
 
Tan believes that the product's attractive value proposition would convince his customers to switch over to SSDs.
 
“In a big organisation, where there are a lot of transactions, there will be a lot of reading and writing to the disk. So you can imagine, on many occasions, the disk would be the bottleneck and IT people would be very concerned,” he said.
 
Although the banking sector is also on its sights, Tan said that his main priority for this year would be to penetrate the hospitality and oil and gas sectors.
 
“We will go after them first because we know them better,” he said.
 
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