Bob Madaio

The Move To Flash: The Time Is Now

Blog Post created by Bob Madaio Employee on Nov 10, 2015

The amount and pace of change that IT organizations are dealing with has never been greater.


A cliché? Perhaps. But true nonetheless.


As the markets change faster than ever, IT is not just expected to adapt to these changes, it is expected to lead them. To do this IT must become both more flexible and faster at the same time. And with “fast businesses eating slow businesses” it’s not a wish, it’s an imperative.




The impacts on IT are significant. Among them include a clear directive for IT to build toward an infrastructure that is both software-defined and all-flash to achieve the flexibility and speed required for tomorrow's IT.

Hitachi has been speaking about the key tenets of a software-defined infrastructure for some time. We focus more on the “software” than on the “defined,” as capabilities are more important than definitions. We also focus on how any software-defined initiative must not blindly follow trends, but must follow application needs for driving greater automation, data access and abstraction. You can read more about that here, or in this eBook.


Hitachi has also been aggressive in talking about the benefits of flash storage.  We haven’t, however, been as aggressive in speaking about “all-flash” as loudly as others. 


The time to rethink that is upon us.


You may be wondering, why the change of tone?  A few reasons: A) we follow our customers’ lead and needs, B) we are excited about the transformative effect an all-flash infrastructure can have, but are realistic about the journey to all-flash and C) we are starting a series of technology releases that can re-frame what all-flash can be and where it can succeed.

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What Our Customers Are Telling Us


Our customers are buying flash at an unprecedented pace and they are seeing phenomenal benefits. Last quarter we shipped more flash storage than in any of quarter of our history, bringing our total to above 250PBs shipped.


The number of multi-petabyte Hitachi flash customers continues to grow. Last quarter alone, we shipped an average of more than 1.5PB of flash storage to our top-ten flash customers. The demand is real and the impacts are powerful.


Who buys Hitachi flash? Some great examples include: Owens CorningAlior Bank and Gati. These are tiered flash deployments representing SAP, VDI or overall infrastructure optimization. Most of them have multi-site replication, some are using our simple, native active/active two-site storage clustering.


We are also experiencing fast growth in all-flash deployments. In fact, Hitachi flash is already used in the world’s largest multi-petabyte all-flash deployments today. One great example of an all-flash customer is Coop Group the Swiss retail leader, where our solutions drove a 10X response time improvement and enhanced customer satisfaction.  A tourism company just replaced a competitors high-end system with a petabyte of replicated Hitachi all flash storage.  A financial firm in New England consolidated multiple tiered and all disk systems into a replicated Hitachi all flash environment.  The list continues to grow.


Understanding The Journey


Like our customers, we are excited for, but realistic about, the journey to all-flash. To over simplify the situation a bit, we see two types of data in most of our customers: transaction data and innovation data (your data lake, your communications, etc.) Transactional data should be in flash - now. Where innovation data needs to sit is much more complicated, and may well still belong tiered to economical disk – at least for now.


We know Hitachi is not the first vendor to claim the future is “all-flash.” However, significant trade-offs have existed in the deployment of such systems. Despite that, early and aggressive vendors like Pure Storage and EMC have rushed to the all-flash discussion, often over-promising and under-delivering.


To be fair, credit should go to Pure Storage in leading the market awareness of flash storage with a massive marketing investment that has nearly equaled their revenues. A tricky business model, but helpful in kick-starting market awareness. Its issue? In the words of financial industry analyst Jefferies Group: “In our numerous conversations with Industry contacts, we continue to struggle to find an end user or expert that can point to a source of competitive advantage for Pure Storage from a technical standpoint.” (From: Jefferies: Storage Decisions Conference Takeaways: Concerns around PSTG, NTAP Reinforced, November 6, 2015.)


EMC on the other hand is the largest “all-flash array” vendor in the market, as it aggressively displaces its base of VMAX and VNX solutions with XtremIO. Customer reaction from these deployments is a mixed bag. Because while you may or may not think VMAX and VNX are best in their respective categories, they were known quantities and customers had figured out how to deal with their limitations. XtremIO has been more of an adventure, which has been pretty well chronicled in the market by industry watchers and even HDSers.


Hitachi does not like being in the game of unrealistically inflating customers' expectations. We think all flash infrastructures require better answers. Flash should introduce LESS disruption, not more. We think flash should start fast, and STAY FAST as it is fully utilized. We think storage for Tier-1 applications should be able to verify that data stored on it has been completely erased before the system is moved or decommissioned.  We believe in 100% Data Availability.  We believe data reduction should not reduce performance while it increases economic benefits.


Introducing A Major Step Hitachi’s March to All-flash


Today as part of our first wave of flash solutions that will be rolled out throughout the upcoming months, Hitachi is introducing significant new systems and technologies to help accelerate the journey to all-flash infrastructure.




This includes our first all-flash arrays, the Hitachi Virtual Storage Platform F series. With extremely low and consistent response times, penalty-free compression, up to 1.4M IOPS and 24GB/s bandwidth, available 100% Data Availability Guarantees and the VSP family’s full application and API integration (eg. VMware VVol), it is ready for challenging application workloads.


The goal of the VSP F series is to meet customers’ expectations of an AFA buying experience, while surpassing their expectations in terms of resiliency, performance consistency and economics. For the first time, customers and partners can quickly configure, acquire and deploy all the hardware and software they need to reap the benefits of Hitachi flash with a single SKU. And, it does all of this at a price that is easily competitive with lesser systems you may have considered – for both raw and effective capacity. 


Mike Nalls talks more about the VSP F series, here.9c51c629dd882fc3b26e8f3b90e01400.jpg


One way the price of the VSP F series can be so cost-effective is that we are also delivering brand new members of the Hitachi Accelerated Flash family of patented innovations, the Hitachi Flash Module DC2 (or FMD DC2), our unique, patented flash capacity modules for the VSP family. With fast inline data compression, significant performance advancements and a new additional capacity point of 6.4TB per device, comparing FMDs to common SSDs is like bringing a gun to a knife fight. And comparing SSD-based all flash arrays to an all-FMD VSP is a bit like fighting the Wimpodites, who clearly never learned  that better weapons could have led to better results.


(Check out Hu Yoshida's blog, Next Generation FMD Ready To Displace Performance Disks Drives, for a great deep dive into this new technology).


Look, SSDs are great devices, I love the one in my PC. But SSDs serve many masters, meaning that cost reduction is a primary design objective so they can be priced to support the lowest common denominator use cases. The problem is, your data center is NOT a lowest common denominator use case.  What happens, however, is when SSD based arrays fill with data, there’s a significant potential for performance degradation. 


That same recent financial analyst report referenced earlier states: “Another example we heard from a storage expert was that a Pure Storage AFAs degrade in performance relatively significantly after it fills up with data…” (From: Jefferies: Storage Decisions Conference Takeaways: Concerns around PSTG, NTAP Reinforced, November 6, 2015.)  We think it's an issue that all SSD-based AFAs are wrestling with today. It will need to be overcome, since customers are now more educated about the issue and  will start to demand that they see the same levels of performance in year five as they did on day one. Hitachi FMD DC2 is built to perform empty, full and under extreme data center stress, avoiding these types of issues and maintaining performance in all circumstances.

tv5by.jpgThese new devices don’t only push Hitachi storage into new performance and efficiency territory, but they are far more economical than those they replace and than performance disk drives for the same capacity.  In fact, raw FMD capacity is already less expensive than similar capacities of many 15K drives, even BEFORE the effects of compression are considered. These new devices have basically removed any logical reason to buy VSP systems with 15K disk drives – performance data has a new home from here on in.


The new FMD DC2 also works seamlessly in our Hitachi Virtual Storage Platform G series of hybrid storage systems. The VSP G series can be ordered in a completely bespoke nature in hardware (e.g. 0% to 100% flash) and software, including leading functionality like external storage virtualization and two-site active/active environments built in. The VSP G is also available with the Hitachi Dynamic Tiering active flash capability, meaning for those customers who haven’t made the journey to all flash can still get near all-flash performance.


Because the future is about all-flash AND software defined functionality to take best advantage of it, we’ve been sure to update some of our leading software applications to ease transitions into an all-flash environment.  Hitachi Automation Director, which comes with pre-built and fully customizable automation services, now has flash provisioning services built in.  And because our flash solutions are often used to “clean up” performance challenges that customers are wrestling with, our Hitachi Data Center Analytics solution – which offers deep and granular performance tracking and analysis – now supports a number of 3rd party storage solutions from EMC, HP, IBM and NetApp, helping customers pinpoint their performance issues, and quickly remedy them.


The Time Is Now


All-flash infrastructure is the future. But for your production data, that future is now.


Data centers that are on the path toward providing IT as a Service, must consider how to best adopt flash for the greatest benefit and least disruption.  Acceleration of production workloads is critical, but so is staying the course on maximizing the Software-Defined Infrastructure benefits of abstraction, improved data access and automation.


By innovating at the device level with FMD DC2 and having optimized our core storage system code to work in a flash-first way, we have simplified the all-flash customer experience and eliminated the trade-offs that may have existed alternative offerings. Our goal is to offer the best flash solutions for solving today’s IT infrastructure challenges and being the best flash storage partner for tomorrow’s changing, real-time business. 


We will be adding to this flash portfolio over the next few months in terms of greater choice in all flash systems, increased options for data reduction, flash for more workloads and deployment models (including converged and hyper-converged solutions) and ensuring a full suite of software tools that can ease management, limit repetition and remove risk.


If you thought it was too soon to move to an all flash environment for your production workloads, you should now think again.


If you didn't realize Hitachi had the flash offerings that could meet the elevated requirements of an all flash infrastructure, it’s certainly time to think again.