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Vast Data: New NVMe enclosures will cause HDD demise

Vast Data is using 30 TB QLC SSDs in its Universal Storage system, putting itself on par with enterprise HDDs in pricing, while bringing more performance to a smaller footprint.

Vast Data is shipping NVMe enclosures with 30 TB SSDs, which the vendor said doubles its storage density and marks the beginning of the end for HDDs.

Vast Data is now using Intel's 30 TB quad-level cell (QLC) SSD drive in its Universal Storage product, a general-purpose enterprise storage system. The new SSDs have a 50% greater density than the largest-capacity HDDs, which puts more storage in a smaller footprint while lowering overall costs.

The Vast Data Universal Storage system works better when it is storing petabytes (PBs) or more, according to Eric Burgener, an analyst at IDC. Vast Data's unique data protection method of erasure coding as well as deduplication techniques become more efficient as more devices are added.

"The 30 TB SSDs [combined with Vast Data's technology] delivers all the IOPS and capacity needed, but with fewer devices than they did before," Burgener said.

Vast Data also introduced Universal Power Control, a new feature due out in 2022 that enables CPU scheduling to better manage workloads, according to Vast Data.

Density decides destiny

The systems used in Vast's stateless servers hold 56 NVMe drives, according to Jeff Denworth, chief marketing officer and co-founder of Vast Data. The addition of the larger SSDs result in 1 PB per usable rack unit (1U) or roughly 40 PB per rack. The growth in storage capacity shows that spinning disks are no longer the superior option for highest-density storage, he said.

"[This release continues] our march toward driving the extinction-level event for enterprise hard drives," Denworth said.

Vast claims its enclosures cost about the same as HDDs, not at the drive level or even at the total-cost-of-ownership level, but at a total-cost-of-acquisition level. HDDs require a five-year refresh cycle, but flash can be used over a longer period, he said.

The price differential is further driven by how data is protected. Vast Data's SSDs use erasure coding that require only about 2% of overhead capacity, whereas HDDs rely on redundant array of independent disks (RAID) that need up to 30% to 40% of overhead capacity. Vast Data uses its similarity-based data reduction technique, which looks for similar blocks of data in a cluster and combines them.

For example, a customer that needs 10 PB in a system would need about 12 to 13 PB of HDD storage to hit the needed capacity with overhead for RAID, Denworth said. Vast can store the same amount of data with 5 PB of physical capacity of flash, thanks to its data-reduction capabilities and erasure coding.

While IDC's Burgener said he doesn't think HDDs are in danger of extinction, Vast's announcement makes it easier to see price parity between spinning disks and flash and highlights the benefits of SSDs, such as better CPU utilization and power savings.

High-capacity HDDs still have their place, Burgener said. If an application needs a response time in the 5-to 20-millisecond range, but needs lots of low-cost capacity, HDDs are the answer. There are several cloud providers and deep archives, such as AWS Glacier, that use HDDs as the data is accessed infrequently. HDDs still have a place, particularly where the issue of IOPS to TB ratio isn't a problem, he said.

Universal Power Control

For years, part of Vast Data's messaging has been around its limitless scalable cluster architecture, so solving a capacity issue for customers wasn't a driver for adding more storage. But the increase in density makes the storage more energy efficient, as fewer racks need less power, Denworth said.

The power draw of the new system is 1/12 of what users would see with a conventional HDD system, he said. As more customers look to optimize their data centers' power consumption, the more attractive larger QLC SSDs will become.

As part of its drive toward energy efficiency, Vast also introduced its Universal Power Control, which is expected for release in 2022. Through a flash archive infrastructure project, Vast observed that power is consumed only when data is written to the drive; reading from the drive is nearly free, electrically, Denworth said. The finding led to the development of Universal Power Control, a feature that can limit a system's power consumption by "intelligently scheduling CPUs," he said, adding customers can see a total power requirement reduction of about 30%.

Saving costs and paying it forward

Vast Data claims that using the higher-density SSDs will result in lower hardware costs, lower power consumption and a smaller physical footprint in the data center.

Vast Data provides what it calls "universal storage," one storage product for all customer needs. The product is composable and provides a quality of service for different competing applications allowing customers to consolidate their data centers. Vast Data Universal Storage can be used for media, content, streaming, financial services, rick analytics, AI, big data, containers and virtual machines; now it is a system that can scale to an exabyte, Denworth said.

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