The Tortoise, the Hare and the Cheetah
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I have been blogging for more than 10 years now, so I am no stranger to commenting on competitive comparisons. In some cases, I am setting the record straight, and other times, poking fun at competitor results, claims or conclusions. This comparison from Brian Carmody was too juicy to ignore.
(FCC Disclosure: I work for IBM. I have no financial interest in Infinidat, Dell EMC, nor Pure Storage, mentioned in this post. I do have friends and former co-workers who now work for Infinidat. This blog post can be considered a "paid celebrity endorsement" for IBM FlashSystem products.)
Fellow blogger Brian Carmody, formerly with IBM but now Chief Technology Officer at a startup called Infinidat, wrote [Flash is not Fast, and the Sky is Falling].
Here is an excerpt, I have added (Infinidat) wherever Brian says "we" just so there is no confusion:
"... So last week we (Infinidat) finally got around to running the same profiles against an INFINIDAT F6230 in our Waltham Solution Center, configured with 1.1TB of DDR-4 DRAM, 200TB TLC NAND, and 480 3TB Nearline HDDs.
In summary, we (Infinidat) wrecked the Pure and EMC systems. Here are the results side by side with EMC's data:<<
By the way, we (Infinidat) took the liberty of running the test with a 200TB data set instead of Pure and EMC's 50TB because modern workloads require performance at scale, and we ran it with in-line compression enabled because our compression algorithm doesn't hurt performance.
This was an interesting test to run, and we (Infinidat) hope it helps the storage industry move away from media type wars and benchmarks (you will lose every time on performance if INFINIDAT is in the mix) ..."
Notice anything wrong here? anything missing?
The Tortoise beat "Hare 1" and "Hare 2", but did not invite the Cheetah to the race?
Brian was smart enough not to compare their product to anything from IBM. IBM has a wide variety of All-Flash Arrays, including the DS8880F models, the Storwize V7000F and V5030F models, and Elastic Storage Server models. However, for this workload, IBM would probably recommend the FlashSystem V9000, A9000 or A9000R.
Any All-Flash Array with a steady-state latency of 2 milliseconds or greater is embarassing, but then Infinibox is not really an All-Flash Array.
The architecture of their Infinibox appears much like the original XIV. It has a mix of DRAM memory and SSD cache, combined with spinning drives. It offers only compression, not data deduplication. Unlike the IBM XIV powered by six to 15 servers, the Infinibox appears under-powered with just three servers.
The Infinibox uses software-based in-line compression, which must put a huge tax on the few CPUs they have in those three servers. Infinidat chose not to compress the data in their cache, probably to reduce the additional overhead on their over-taxed CPUs.
The IBM FlashSystem V9000 has an innovative design, based on IBM Spectrum Virtualize, the mature software that you also find in the IBM SAN Volume Controller and Storwize family of products.
The FlashSystem V9000 offers hard
IBM compresses its cache, using a two-tier approach. The "upper cache" receives the data uncompressed, so that it can then tell the application to continue, for fastest turn-around time. Then the data is compressed, and stored in the "lower cache", optimizing the value and benefits of DRAM memory. Many databases get up to 80 percent savings, resulting in a 5-to-1 benefit in DRAM cache memory.
The IBM FlashSystem A9000 and A9000R also have an innovative, based on IBM Spectrum Accelerate, the code originally developed for IBM XIV storage system.
(Fun fact: Infinidat's founder, [Moshe Yanai], was formerly the founder and designer of XIV, and it appears that Infinidat is just a re-design of old XIV technology architecture, re-packaged with a few differences. Since Moshe left, IBM has drastically enhanced the IBM XIV.)
Like the IBM Spectrum Virtualize family, the IBM FlashSystem A9000 and A9000R have hard
The IBM FlashSystem A9000 and A9000R also offer in-line data deduplication. Modern workloads are virtualized, and Virtual Machine (VM) and Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) get significant benefits from data deduplication. Infinidat does not play here. For the FlashSystem A9000, most of the metadata related to data deduplication is in cache, minimizing the overhead.
IBM FlashSystem A9000 and A9000R have full performance that blows these published Infinibox results away WITH compression and deduplication turned on.
Brian ran a workload that used the DRAM and SSD cache exclusively, eliminating the reality that any REAL WORLD workload would have to tap into those much slower spinning drives. This is not really a side-to-side benchmark. He is comparing his live run on Infinibox to published numbers from a previous comparison run on a completely different set of data.
This raises the question, why pay for all those spinning drives at all, if you plan to only use the DRAM and Flash storage for your workloads?
A week later, Brian followed up with another post [The INFINIDAT Challenge], acknowledging his comparison was bogus. Here's an excerpt. Again, I have added (Infinidat) wherever Brian is referring to his employer just so there is no confusion:
"... It's not likely that a room full of storage engineers will ever agree on parameters for a synthetic benchmark since storage evaluations are competitive and control of test parameters will invariably predetermine the 'winner'. However, I hope we can all agree that synthetic benchmarks are a waste of time, and that real world performance is what matters in the data center.
So, what can we (Infinidat) do about it?
We (Infinidat) cordially invite every enterprise storage customer who wants lower latency and lower storage cost to visit [Fas
Thanks again to all who participated in the dialog over the past week. I know the post generated some controversy. Traditional storage companies are fighting for their lives trying to keep enterprise storage expensive; indeed their business models are predicated upon maintaining price levels from a bygone era...."
As consolidation play doing full range of data services, I do not see this Infinibox working out. Talking to clients who have the Infinibox, the performance deteriorates in REAL WORLD workloads as you add more data to the unit.
The Infinibox seems fine for workloads that do not demand high performance, so I was surprised Brian compared it to All-Flash arrays. The Infinibox is out of its league!
(To be fair, Pure Storage and EMC XtremeIO aren't really in the same league as IBM FlashSystem, either, given that both of those products are based on commodity SSD. IBM FlashSystem models are consistently 4 to 10 times lower latency than these Commodity-SSD based competitors.)
The Infinibox also lacks features many people expect in an Enterprise-class storage array, like Call-Home capability to identify problems quickly, and Synchronous remote mirroring for disaster recovery. It is often common for startups like Infinidat to deliver a [Minimum Viable Product] as their first offering.
To paraphrase Brian himself, your applications will lose every time on performance if INFINIDAT is in your datacenter.
technorati tags: IBM, FlashSystem, A9000, A9000R, Brian Carmody, Infinidat, Infinibox, Pure Storage, EMC, EMC Unity, Infinidat F6230, Infinibox F6230, IBM XIV, Moshe Yanai, SSD, VDI, All-Flash Array, AFA, Call-Home, Synchronous Mirror, Disaster Recovery, Minimum Viable Product, Spectrum Virtualize, Intel QuickAssist, American Cancer Society