Death of a Trade-off

The death of a trade-off, by Woody Hutsell,

Everyone hates trade-offs but we almost always have to make them.  One of the most famous trade-offs in the IT world is that you can have it fast, cheap or good, pick two. One version of this trade off in the flash industry is that you can have it fast or low cost, pick one.  This is because our primary way to lower cost for all flash arrays has been to implement data reduction.  These data reduction tools lower the effective cost but they add latency thus slowing down the all flash arrays.  A quick look at the latency specifications for devices that data reduce and those that don’t will confirm this notion even where the marketing seeks to obfuscate this reality.

With its latest refresh of the FlashSystem 900, IBM allows the customer to get it fast and get it inexpensively.

There are two key technology advancements in the FlashSystem 900.  First, it has IBM enhanced 3D TLC NAND flash.  As with prior generations of FlashSystem, IBM has acquired Micron chips directly from the fab and enhanced them with our advanced flash management.  The economic benefits of moving to 3D TLC are well documented and apply to the new FlashSystem 900.  With the new chips, we achieve up to a 3x increase in maximum capacity.

The second key technology advance is line speed hardware compression.  IBM is the second major vendor to implement hardware compression but the first to deliver it for 3D TLC.  IBM compresses data in our field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) within every flash module.  If you work with our sales and business partner teams we will put in a writing a 2:1 compression guarantee (and yes, your data must be compressible).  We have used a variety of terms to describe the performance of this new compression solution such as zero performance impact and worry-free compression.  But I want to take it one step further.  In most cases, our hardware compression will deliver better performance than the prior generation FlashSystem 900.

Implementing compression has always been a trade-off.  You implement compression to improve economics but trade-off performance.  Now, this trade-off is history thanks to the new FlashSystem 900.


2 Responses to Death of a Trade-off

  1. Cedric Cook says:

    Great article Woody! I can only think of “till death do us part”… so, is this permanent?

    • appicu says:

      Cedric, like death and taxes, the drive to reduce latency in modern storage arrays is never ending. I expect more solutions to use hardware compression as the benefits to the customer become clear.

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