Texas Memory Systems unveils high availability flash array

New RamSan-720 array has no single point of failure; offers redundant power supplies, dual RAID controllers

Flash array vendor Texas Memory Systems (TMS) Tuesday released its first high-availability NAND flash array. The RamSan-720 array is targeted at hosting the highest performance, mission critical data.

The new array has no single point of failure at both the hardware and management software level. The storage system includes redundant power supplies, dual RAID controllers, dual internal flash card interfaces, and memory battery backup.

The 1U (1.75-in high) rack-mountable unit comes with 12 flash modules. Each module has redundant I/O ports, a 500GB flash card and one expansion unit for an additional 500GB flash card, giving users the option of having either a 6TB or 12TB of total raw capacity (5TB and 10TB usable) in one array.

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The RamSan-720 flash array

Eric Eyberg, a senior analyst at Texas memory Systems, said the new RamSan array is well suited for virtual environments, including virtual desktop infrastructures (VDI), as well as for cloud computing environments.

"Say you're a cloud provider and you offer various applications -- say databases and web servers -- to your tenants. You want them to be able to access that very quickly, but you can't depend on high-availability from the application, so you put the applications on these boxes. Now you can run a bunch of [the applications on each box] and scale out your user base," Eyberg said.

The 12TB RamSan-720 model contains 80 single-level cell (SLC) NAND flash chips.

In the latest RamSan array, each controller manages 20 chips, which allowed TMS to offer twice the capacity of its predecessor, the RamSan-720's array, which managed 10 chips.

Also setting the RamSan-720 apart from the previous generation of the company's flash arrays is a third layer of RAID protection.

Each module in the RamSan-720 contains two or four FPGAs, (field-programmable gate array or programmed integrated circuit) that are customized to stripe data between modules and between NAND flash chips. So 9+1 RAID parity is performed at both a system level, between NAND flash modules and at the chip level. Therefore, if any chip or module fails, data is not lost, Eyberg said.

"We prefer to think of it as each independent layer having its own RAID 5," Eyberg said. "A lot of our competitors have done RAID across modules. Now, we're offering the best of both worlds: RAID across and within modules."

At a hardware level, for every 10 NAND flash chips, one is used for parity and one is used as a hot spare in case a chip fails. TMS offers users the ability to off the inter-module RAID in order to recapture an additional 1TB or 2TB of capacity by reclaiming the parity chips.

TMS also claims its RamSan-720 uses less power than comparable boxes -- 300 to 400 watts of power when operational.

The RamSan-720 offers the same performance as its 710 predecessor, 5GB/sec and 410,000 I/Os per second (IOPS). Data latency rates are under 100 microseconds, Eyberg said.

The RamSan-720 is priced at $20,000 per terabyte.

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian, or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

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