Insights, Best Practices and Forward Thinking from the Customer Facing Team, Solution Architects and Leaders on Extreme Performance Applications, Infrastructure, Storage and the Real-World Impact Possible

Primary Storage: The difference between flash Arrays and a bunch of SSD's

by VIOLIN SYSTEMS on February 29, 2012

Start From Flash

There is discussion in the industry as to the best method to deploy solid state storage, in other words whether it is better to build flash arrays from SSD's, PCIe Cards, or the flash chips themselves. The key to system design is selecting the right building blocks and integrating them in such a way that the overall system is optimized - while minimizing tradeoffs. Violin strongly believes that you need to start from the flash layer (chips), and build an array as a coherent, tightly integrated whole to extract the extraordinary value offered by these amazingly high performance flash die.

Cost is always one of the variables that needs to be balanced in the equation. To be a price leader it's important to be on the commodity curve. But the commodity curve can be intercepted at different levels. The Violin approach is to intercept that curve at the flash die level, not at the SSD or PCIe card level. Those devices were designed for laptops and servers, optimized as a single solitary component, not suited to storage arrays designed to provide value in the "aggregation of components" to reach some performance and/or capacity target.
 
Managing across many components requires building from the lowest level component–the flash chips–to meet the requirements that an array needs.  So much is lost in aggregating "black box" devices in which there is no chance to understand what is actually happening between the flash and the controller, it just presents a single disk interface (or PCIe if a card) and whatever performance the device can provide–due to the current state of the flash itself.
 
Violin Systems has a strategic partnership with Toshiba, one of the largest flash memory suppliers in the world. This gives Violin an inside track to create enterprise class flash controllers designed to work together as a system, not an "island of flash". This partnership means that coupled with intelligent system design, Violin delivers the most balanced solution across the dimensions of performance, reliability, and cost. 

We want to know what you think. SSD's are great for laptops, PCIe cards surely help servers and flash Arrays accelerate the datacenter–which would you choose for your primary storage?

Please comment below.

Related: Violin Systems Technology Series<