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Western Digital IntelliFlash adds NVMe, SAS storage

The expanded Western Digital IntelliFlash models include low-end N5100 NVMe and high-density HD2160 SAS arrays. IntelliFlash OS now supports live migration to an S3-compatible cloud.

Western Digital Corp. revamped its flagship IntelliFlash block storage, adding an NVMe all-flash building block and a higher-capacity hybrid SAS array.

An upgrade of the Western Digital IntelliFlash OS software added live data migration between array families and disaster recovery to any S3-compatible hybrid cloud.

The Western Digital flash portfolio includes T-Series hybrid arrays, HD high-density all-flash and N-Series NVMe-based flash arrays. The new 2U IntelliFlash N5100 is rated for 400,000 IOPS and 400 TB of raw storage. It is the third array in the N-Series family, along with the midrange N5200 (1.4 PB) and N5800 (2.5 PB) capacity models.

NVMe flash is viewed as the eventual successor to systems that use SAS and SATA SSDs. The NVMe protocol delivers faster flash by virtue of using multilane PCIe SSDs to enable application servers to send commands to storage.

Erik Ottem, senior director of product marketing for Western Digital, based in San Jose, Calif., said the N5100 balances performance and capacity. He said list pricing is still being finalized.

"We obviously put less magic dust in [N5100] hardware, but we think this is a great option for customers looking for an entry point into NVMe," Ottem said.

He said IntelliFlash 3.10 provides a twofold boost in IOPS and lowers latency from 250 microseconds to 200 microseconds.

IntelliFlash N5100 pricing starts at $150,000 for 46 TB of raw storage and $200,000 for 92 TB of raw storage.

Western Digital IntelliFlash flash flagship

Western Digital is best known in storage for making consumer and enterprise hard drives, but jumped into flash storage through acquisitions in recent years.

Western Digital updated IntelliFlash software to move data between NVMe all-flash arrays (pictured) and hybrid SAS models.
Western Digital updated IntelliFlash software to move data between NVMe all-flash arrays (pictured) and hybrid SAS models.

The Western Digital IntelliFlash storage is based on technology picked from two acquisitions: SanDisk Corp. and Tegile Systems. The original IntelliFlash flash chassis was developed by SanDisk and sold via OEM deals with storage vendors, including IBM and Tegile Systems. Tegile packaged its 2U controller on IntelliFlash and sold it under its InfiniFlash brand. SanDisk was an institutional investor in Tegile. In 2017, Western Digital brought Tegile into the fold in a deal reportedly worth $55 million.

Western Digital has been designing storage for internet of things and big data, said Scott Sinclair, a storage analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group in Milford, Mass.

"There has been a shift away from having the coolest, trendiest new feature to getting the capabilities I want in a predictable, cost-effective form factor. I want it to be fast, and I want it to be available. Those organizational priorities fit a lot of what Western Digital is trying to get at," Sinclair said.

Clones, inline data reduction, replicated snapshots and thin provisioning are basic services in Western Digital IntelliFlash 3.10.

"There's nothing in here that makes me go, 'Wow, I've never seen that before.' But they haven't missed anything obvious," Sinclair said.

SAS arrays use new Western Digital SSDs

The IntelliFlash HD2160 all-flash and hybrid arrays are outfitted with Western Digital Ultrastar DC SS530 15.3 TB SSDs. Raw storage scales to 2.6 TB per seven-node cluster, or 368 TB per node. Up to six SAS expander shelves can be added. Following data reduction, Western Digital claims effective capacity scales to 10 PB in 14U.

The HD2160 replaces the HD2080 as the high-end capacity model. The entry-level HD2040 rounds out the IntelliFlash SAS product line.

Ottem said Live Dataset Migration is a key feature in the Western Digital IntelliFlash upgrade. The operating system allows a LUN to move transparently between any IntelliFlash NVMe and SAS array. The movement occurs without interrupting the LUN as it serves I/Os.

"It's kind of like the forklift upgrade goes away at this point," Ottem said.

IntelliFlash Hybrid S3 Cloud Connector in v10.3 enables a data center to send, restore and share volume snapshots to supported clouds and Western Digital ActiveScale or other object storage.

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