The 10 Coolest Flash Storage Products Of 2014 (So Far)

Beefing Up Storage With The Performance Of Flash

The flash storage market started maturing quickly in the first half of 2014, as evidenced by the number of all-flash array vendors adding enterprise-class software capabilities and by some of the new value-added features that for now help de-commoditize SSDs.

And there's more to come. While nearly every major storage and system vendor has added all-flash storage arrays to their line cards, there are still a few holes to fill in, including what NetApp is planning for FlashRay and whether Cisco will become a true storage vendor with its Invicta line.

Turn the page for a look at the wide range of flash storage technologies coming to market.

Apricorn Expands FIPS 140-2 SSD Line For Ruggedized Use

Poway, Calif.-based Apricorn started shipping its first ruggedized SSD, the Aegis Padlock. The Aegis Padlock SSD, which features FIPS 140-2 validated security, comes in a crush- resistant aluminum enclosure rated to over 6500 lbs. and sealed against dust and grit. It is unaffected by high humidity and works in extreme temperatures, the company said.

Data is protected with real-time AES-XTS 256-bit hardware encryption and an on-board keypad for use with a user's unique PIN. The encryption keys are randomly generated, and the data is automatically erased after 20 consecutive failed entries. The circuit board and encryption chip are destroyed if the device is tampered with.

Cisco: Is Invicta A Storage Device

Cisco's Invicta platform is one of the "Coolest Flash Storage Products" not because of any new models for 2014, but because of the controversy swirling around the technology.

Invicta was developed by Whiptail as an all-flash array before Cisco acquired Whiptail, but is now touted as an application acceleration technology that does not conflict with primary storage arrays from Cisco's storage partners.

But that doesn't stop rampant speculation in the industry that Cisco is keeping Invicta ready to be used as a primary storage device should relations between the vendor and its main storage partner EMC break apart over other issues such as a dispute over the future of software-defined networking.

Greenliant: SSDs with Built-In Power Interrupt Data Protection

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Greenliant Systems started shipping its new mSATA ArmourDrive SSDs. The SSDs, which are targeted at industrial, networking and computing systems that need reliable data storage in extreme temperatures, feature built-in dedicated power failure detection and backup power circuitry to help prevent data integrity issues caused by sudden power interruptions.

The mSATA ArmourDrive SSDs measure just over 2 square inches and operate in -40 to 185 degrees Fahrenheit (-40 to +85 degrees Celsius). The SSDs can be configured with MLC NAND flash memory in 8, 16, 32 and 64GB capacities, or with SLC NAND in 8, 6 and 32GB capacities.

Kaminario: Enterprise-Class Software, Scale-Up For Flash Storage Arrays

All-flash storage array maker Kaminario in May gave its flash arrays an enterprise edge with new software for enterprise data services, as well as both scale-up and scale-out architectures.

The new software suite with the Kaminario K2 v5 increases storage efficiency with such capabilities as global selective in-line deduplication, variable block deduplication, in-line data compression, thin provisioning and snapshot-based replication.

It now also adds scale-up architecture, in which an individual node's flash storage capacity can be increased with the addition of extra SSDs. The Kaminario K2 originally was available only with scale-out capability, which added performance as well as capacity with additional nodes.

Micron: SSD With Hardware-based Encryption

The new M550 SSD from Boise, Idaho-based Micron Technology offers high performance with multiple layers of technology to protect the data stored on the SSDs.

This includes built-in, hardware-based encryption to protect data from unauthorized access, as well as onboard power-loss protection and advanced error recovery techniques to protect data integrity and proprietary RAIN (redundant array of independent nodes) technology to offer fail-over protection at the NAND level.

The M550 draws as little as 0.15 watts during normal operation, but delivers up to 95,000 input/output operations per second (IOPS) with a sequential read speed of up to 550 MBs per second and write speed of 500 MBs per second.

NetApp: All-Flash At The Top Of The FAS Line

NetApp in June included an all-flash configuration in a new refresh of its high-end FAS family.

New at NetApp is the FAS8080 EX, the company's highest-performing storage solution. It features new Intel processors and can be configured with up to 5 petabytes of all-flash capacity, or 500 TB of flash storage used as a cache with up to 70 petabytes of hard disk capacity in a hybrid solution.

The FAS8080 EX also scales to up to 4 million IOPS (IOs per second). It works in clustered environments thanks to NetApp's Clustered Ontap operating system and handles both SAN and NAS operations.

OCZ: Flash Acceleration For Microsoft SQL Server

SSD pioneer OCZ, which was acquired by Toshiba earlier this year, used Microsoft TechEd North America 2014 to showcase two accelerated flash-based storage solutions.

The first was a beta version of OCZ’s next-generation ZD-XL SQL Accelerator, a device that targets optimized and efficient flash acceleration for Microsoft SQL Server environments. Working with SQL Server 2014, the solution provides improved storage performance, availability and manageability, OCZ said. The second was a solution jointly developed with business intelligence software developer Panorama Software, which provides high-performance business analytics for SQL Server applications using OCZ’s ZD-XL SQL Accelerator.

Pure Storage: Adding Replication, Other Software Features To All-Flash Storage Arrays

The Purity 4.0 operating system for Pure Storage’s all-flash arrays in May was enhanced with a new FlashRecover feature that provides data reduction-aware replication and snapshot services that work across multiple FlashArray 400-series arrays in both fan-in and fan-out configurations. Also new with Purity 4.0 is the ability to set data protection policies and support for 256-bit AES encryption.

The new software was introduced along with two new Pure Storage all-flash arrays including the entry-level FlashArray 405 with up to 40 TB of usable capacity in a 1U solution for top-of-rack configurations, and the FlashArray 450, which can be configured with up to 250 TBs of capacity.

SanDisk: Claims ULLtraDIMM Flash Storage Faster Than PCIe

Milpitas, Calif.-based flash storage developer SanDisk in January unveiled ULLtraDIMM, a new solid-state storage technology the company claims offers consistent performance an order of magnitude better than that of PCIe flash storage.

ULLtraDIMM moves flash storage to a server's memory channel to provide flash storage performance with a sustained latency of under 5 microseconds, or about one-tenth that of PCIe, SanDisk said.

The ULLtraDIMM flash storage modules, designed in 200 and 400GB capacities, are built with SanDisk's flash memory, controllers and controller software, and DIMM technology. It also includes technology from Ottawa, Ontario-based Diablo Technologies that translates DDR3 protocols to allow the flash storage to talk directly to a server's processor.

Violin Memory: Windows Storage Server-Based Flash Array

Violin Memory in April introduced what it called the first all-flash storage array embedded with Windows Storage Server 2012 R2.

The new Windows Flash Array, which was co-developed with Microsoft, targets customers with strong Windows-based storage experience who want to use their existing Windows tools and skillsets to manage their flash storage arrays, including in Windows clustered environments.

The Violin Memory Windows Flash Array uses SMB Direct, which enables the array to directly load data into the application server's memory to increase application performance. It also uses RDMA (remote direct memory access) to increase bandwidth and provide high-speed file performance in NAS environments, Violin said.