The 10 Hottest SSD And Flash Storage Products Of 2019

Flash storage has entered a new level of maturity, with new performance and capacity springing from such technologies as NVMe and vendors including NetApp, Dell EMC, HPE, Hitachi Vantara and Pure Storage leading the charge.

Flash, Particularly NVMe, Set To Take Over The Data Center

Gone are the heady days of fast growth for the storage industry, which is seeing total spending on external storage starting to plateau. However, there is one big bright spot: flash storage, which is still finding double-digit year-over-year growth. This is seen in the latest report from research firm IDC, which in December reported that worldwide enterprise external OEM storage systems rose a mere 1.3 percent over last year to reach 6.6 billion, while the all-flash storage array sales rose 11.7 percent during the same period to reach $2.58 billion.

Leading with way in terms of technology this year is NVMe, the new high-performance connectivity technology that is getting adopted into most new all-flash storage arrays. This is a trend likely to continue in 2020 and beyond. The year also saw the introduction of new high-capacity SSDs and even high-capacity IoT storage, both of which pave the way for further adoption of flash storage.

CRN has been watching the developments carefully. Here are some of the coolest of those developments so far in 2019.

Dell EMC Unity XT

The Dell EMC Unity XT, unveiled in April at the Dell Technologies World conference, features a combination of software enhancements and the latest generation of Intel processors to double the performance of the previous generation. The new all-flash arrays are NVMe-ready, meaning that customers some time in the next 12 months or so will be able to do a nondisruptive software upgrade to take advantage of the high-performance NVMe protocol.

The four models in the Dell EMC Unity XT all-flash storage family feature maximum raw capacities of 2.4 Petabytes to 16.0 Petabytes,, and offer unified block and file storage and multi-cloud capabilities.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise Primera

Hewlett Packard Enterprise in June unveiled a new storage platform, HPE Primera, which the company said combines the InfoSight-based artificial intelligence technology from its Nimble family of arrays with the reliability of its 3Par array family. HPE Primera, which can be configured with a combination of SAS-based and NVMe-based flash storage, also will take advantage of storage-class memory such as Intel's Optane technology as it becomes more available.

HPE Primera combines agility and resiliency for mission-critical applications with a system that can manage itself and be able to predict and prevent issues beyond the wall of storage, thanks to its InfoSight-based architecture. That architecture allows Primera to see beyond the storage layer to apply analytics to optimize performance and find issues before they happen. It also offers an all-active architecture along with a modularized, services-centric operating system that lets customers develop, deploy, upgrade and restart the data services separately.

Inside the Primera system are four nodes, each with two Intel Xeon processors. Each node has its own power supply with its own backup battery. The maximum memory that can be initially purchased is 2 Terabytes.

Hitachi Vantara VSP 5000

Hitachi Vantara in October unveiled the Hitachi Virtual Storage Platform 5000 series storage arrays, calling it the fastest, highest-capacity and most reliable storage array on the planet. According to Hitachi Vantara, the VSP 5000 with its NVMe design and Hitachi Accelerated Fabric features an industry-leading 21 million IOPS with sub-70-microsecond latencies. It can be configured from two controllers to 12 controllers and over 69 Petabytes of capacity, and provides eight nines, or 99.999999 percent, availability.

Hitachi Vantara is targeting the VSP 5000 at businesses looking to find a way to keep up with the growth of their data and data lakes but which may not have the resources to deal with the growing complexity to manage that growth, the company said. It offers a full range of data services, including the ability to drag and drop integrated copy data management capabilities, seamlessly tier file and object workloads to the cloud, smart deduplication, and a patented AI engine to give it root cause analysis, predictive recommended remediation actions, and AI-assisted resource placement and balancing and forecasting.

IBM Storwize 5000 Family

IBM in April expanded its Storwize storage system line with new versions of its Storwize 5000 family that bring high-performance NVMe storage to a wider range of customers.

At the top of the Storwize V5000 family is the V5100/F, which includes IBM's NVMe-powered FlashCore storage technology, with scalability to up to 1,520 flash drives. It also comes bundled at no charge with IBM Spectrum Virtualize software to virtualize any of 450-plus different non-IBM arrays to give them full storage management capabilities including snapshots, encryption and storage virtualization.

IBM's FlashCore flash storage modules are proprietary modules featuring both flash storage capacity and hardware-accelerated I/O. The latest FlashCore modules are FIPS 140-2 certified for security requirements.

Micron X100 NVMe SSD

Micron Technology in October unveiled the Micro X100 SSD, a new offering the company called the world's fastest SSD because of its leveraging of high-performance 3D Xpoint technology, giving it improved capacity and persistence compared with DRAM as well as higher endurance and performance when compared with NAND memory alone.

The Micron X100 NVMe SSD offers performance of up to 2.5 million IOPs with over 9-GBps bandwidth in the read mode and a consistent low read-write latency the company said is 11 times better than that of NAND SSDs.

The Micron X100 NVMe SSDs are currently in limited sampling with select customers.

NetApp AFF A320

NetApp in May introduced the latest in its all-flash storage systems, the AFF A320. The company called it the first midrange storage array to offer end-to-end NVMe performance.

The A320 is a 2U array with 100-Gbit Ethernet ports and support for NVMe SSDs. It is supported by a new expansion shelf also supporting NVMe, which is connected via NVMe-over-RoCE, and scales to a maximum of 24 nodes with 576 SSDs for up to 35 Petabytes of maximum capacity. It features latency as low as 100 microseconds, as well as the full range of NetApp storage services.

Pure Storage DirectMemory Modules

All-flash storage technology developer Pure Storage used its September Pure Accelerate conference to introduce its Pure Storage DirectMemory Modules, a series of modules that combines Pure Storage's DirectMemory Cache software and Intel Optane storage-class memory.

The DirectMemory Modules plug directly into the company's FlashArray//70 and FlashArray//90 flagship high-performance all-flash arrays to give applications such as online transaction processing and online analytical processing a big performance boost by cutting storage latency by between 25 percent and 50 percent and reducing CPU utilization by up to 25 percent. Pure Storage FlashArray//70 and FlashArray//90 already take advantage of the company's DirectMemory Cache software for a reduced latency of up to 50 percent to accelerate mission-critical applications. The software allows the DirectMemory Modules to plug into the existing arrays and be immediately available to boost the performance even higher. Certain applications like SAP HANA, which normally run in host memory, can also run on the DirectMemory Modules to increase performance at a much lower cost than server memory.

Samsung PCIe Gen4 SSDs

Samsung Electronics in September significantly boosted the software capabilities of its PCIe Gen4 SSD series to target the building of ultra-high-capacity data center SSDs. It software includes three innovations. The first, fail-in-place, or FIP, technology, ensures that SSDs maintain normal operation even when errors occur at the chip level, making what Samsung called the industry's first "never-dying" SSD. The FIP software detects faulty chips, scans for damage in the data, and then relocates the data into working chips. The second, SSD virtualization technology, lets a single SSD to be subdivided into up to 64 smaller SSDs. The third, V-NAND machine learning technology, helps improve SSD data reliability by accurately predicting and verifying cell characteristics and detecting any variation among circuit patterns through big data analytics.

The new software is already available with the Samsung PM1733 and PM1735 SSDs, which Samsung released in August.

Toshiba XG6-P NVMe SSDs

Toshiba Memory in May unveiled its XG6-P series of NVMe M.2-based SSDs. The XG6 series offer up to 2,048 GB of capacity leveraging Toshiba Memory’s 96-layer BiCS Flash 3D TLC technology. The SSDs also feature PCIe Gen 3 x4 lane (rev. 3.1a) interface for performance of up to 3,180 MBps of sequential read and 2,920 MBps of sequential write, and up to 355,000 random read and 365,000 random write IOPS. Management features for client and data center customers include sanitize operations, telemetry data, and namespace management, along with security features like self-encryption.

Western Digital iNAND IX EM132 EFD

Western Digital in September unveiled a portfolio of flash storage offerings aimed at providing high-endurance storage for industrial, smar, and manufacturing environments including a variety of IoT devices.

The flagship of the new line is the Western Digital iNAND IX EM132 EFD, the company’s first 3D NAND e.MMC storage based on its 64-Layer 3D NAND technology for industrial and IoT devices. It supports operating temperature ranges of minus-40 degrees Celsius to 85 degrees Celsius, and offers a full range of capabilities aimed at intensive industrial workloads including advanced health monitoring, thermal management, smart partitioning, auto and manual read refresh, power management, and data retention exceeding JEDEC standards.

The company also introduced the Western Digital Industrial IX LD342 SD and IX QD342 micro SD, with capacities from 16 GB to 512 GB and card health monitor targeting emerging industrial applications.