Whiptail whips up modularly scalable all-flash storage array

The Invicta all-SSD array can generate up to 650,000 IOPS

Solid-state storage array maker Whiptail today announced its first modular, scalable all-flash array with up to 72TB of capacity.

Whiptail's new Invicta is an enterprise-class, multi-protocol storage array that scales in performance from 250,000 I/Os per second (IOPS) to 650,000 IOPS as modular units are added to it. The array is controlled by Whiptail's new storage "router," the Accela.

Invicta
A computer rendering of the Invicta all-SSD array

The company's previous generation router, the Accelerator, was 5% to 8% slower at serving up IOPS than the Accela, according to Whiptail CEO Dan Crain.

The Invicta all-flash array can support up to 12,000 virtual desktops and offer up to 7.5GBps of sustained throughput. The array, which uses an InfiniBand backplane to add additional modular arrays, can attach to servers via Fibre Channel, iSCSI Fibre Channel over Ethernet, Network File System (NFS), CIFS and InfiniBand SRP.

Whiptail competes against several others in the all-flash array market, including Nimbus Data Systems, Violin Memory and Texas Memory Systems.

The Accela router unit with 1.5TB of capacity starts at around $50,000. The Invicta storage arrays start at around $250,000 for 6TB unit

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Henry Baltazar, an analyst with 451 Research Group, said the Invicta marks a distinct upgrade from Whiptail's more midrange-oriented products of the past.

While "a couple" of vendors are coming out with scalable arrays, such as XtremIO, those products have yet to be launched, Baltazar said. Whiptail's appears to be the first in that category.

All-flash arrays are expensive, high-performance systems that are built for applications requiring high throughput, such as relational databases, big data analytics, large virtual desktop infrastructures or processes requiring large batch workloads, such as backups.

"At this point, flash arrays are too expensive for many use cases such as NAS and unstructured data storage. The need for high performance storage for virtualization and databases is increasing rapidly, which will make flash arrays more popular going forward. I would also point out that flash arrays can deliver high performance using a relatively small amount of rackspace, power and cooling, which should also be a factor when considering [total cost of ownership]," Baltazar said.

Whiptail's new all-flash array can be configured in several RAID schemes and has asynchronous replication and snapshot capability for disaster recovery and business continuity. The Invicta can also be managed from within VMware vCenter with full support of VMware's vStorage APIs for Array Integration (VAAI).

The Invicta, which uses multi-level cell (MLC) flash, comes in 2U (3.5-in.-high) storage module chassis. Each chassis holds up to 12TB of capacity and up to six chassis can be cobbled together for the maximum system capacity along with a single 2U router unit. A full rack consumes 1400 watts, which represents a reduction in energy use of up to 90%, compared to legacy hard-disk-drive arrays, according to Crain.

"This is the largest single-capacity SSD array made," Crain said.

Nimbus CEO Thomas Isakovich challenged Crain's assertion, saying his company has had the E-Class array with 500TB in a single system since January.

"That came to follow-on the S-Class which was introduced in 2010 with 250TB scalability. Both much more scalable. WhipTail seems two years behind," he said.

One of the Invicta's strong points is its ability to serve up data in a multi-tenancy architecture, meaning that multiple business units, or businesses in the case of a cloud storage provider, can all share the same storage pool, Crain said. Additionally, the Invicta is backward-compatible, meaning Whiptail's previous generation, single-chassis SSD arrays, can be used in an Invicta configuration. That previous-generation unit had 24 SSDs for up to 12TB of capacity and 230,000 IOPS of performance.

The company also launched a new version of that single-unit array that it said is 5% to 8% faster.

The flash array market remains a relatively small one compared with the multibillion-dollar hard-disk-array market, Baltazar said, adding that flash will not lead to the extinction of disks.

"The high storage density and low cost of disk should keep hard drives around for a long time, and hard drives will continue to be the best medium for storing infrequently accessed data and large files such as video," he said.

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

See more by Lucas Mearian on Computerworld.com.

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