EMC's XtremIO flash array hits market

EMC's XtremIO is the storage giant's big move into flash arrays and the company is pitching a new architecture.

Storage giant EMC on Thursday made its XtremIO flash array generally available as the company aims to grab more solid state data center turf.

Increasingly, enterprises are working toward flash memory in the data center and away from traditional disk-based systems. The move is being made to boost application performance and to power big data and analytics.

EMC's XtremIO product line, which has been touted for a while leading up to release, is designed to boost performance. EMC argues that XtremIO offers always on deduplication, data protection and raw speed and efficiency improvements.

Until the last year or so, flash data center gear has been left to a bevy of younger companies such as Fusion-io. Now larger storage vendors such as IBM and EMC are plotting to move their massive customer bases more to flash-based system. In the field, EMC is likely to compete with rivals such as NetApp as well as IBM and its FlashSystem. The biggest difference between EMC and IBM's flash systems is that EMC uses SSDs and IBM is using native flash (eMLC NAND). 

EMC's pitch is that XtremIO has a different architecture than other all-flash arrays for efficiency and durability.

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Key features include:

  • A data placement scheme that removes duplicate data on the fly across the array.
  • A dual stage metadata engine that will put data anywhere in the flash array without so-called garbage collection---back-end cleaning processes.
  • Data protection due to an algorithm that monitors solid state drive failures and frees up capacity.
  • Shared in-memory metadata that allows for speedy deployment of virtual machines.
  • An architecture that revolves around building blocks called X-Bricks, which come in 10TB blocks. Twenty terabyte X-Bricks will be available in early 2014. An XtremIO array can have up to 250TB capacity in one system.

Not surprisingly, XtremIO is integrated with EMC's offspring VMware as well as VCE, a joint venture with Cisco.

In the field, EMC's rivals, notably IBM and HP, are likely to knock XtremIO's architecture, which is compelling and unique but could also lead to lock-in.