Welcome to Part 4 of our FlashArray//X launch blog series:
- Part 1: A New Flash Recipe for the Cloud Era
- Part 2: FlashArray//X – Making NVMe Mainstream
- Part 3: DirectFlash™ – Enabling Software and Flash to Speak Directly
- Part 4: Transforming to NVMe the Evergreen Way [This Blog]
- Part 5: A Customer’s Perspective – How MacStadium Uses NVMe
Evergreen™ Storage delivers an on-premises infrastructure as a service (IaaS) approach to storage, enabling you to simply subscribe to an experience that keeps getting better with age with no need to wait for a 4-5 year refresh. You can buy your storage once, expand, upgrade and modernize it as needed, all without any service disruption to applications, without data migrations, and without rebuying any TBs you already own.
How is this possible? Our products are built on a unique Evergreen architecture that is perpetually forwards compatible, even across generations. And we’ve been doing this for years, helping customers evolve their FlashArrays from our first generation FA-300 through to our latest generation FlashArray//X.
Today, we’re excited to share specifically how our standard Evergreen Gold subscription will allow our customers to evolve their existing FlashArray//M arrays to our latest and greatest FlashArray//X (at time of GA). We’re also excited to introduce a new, lower tier subscription called Evergreen Silver, designed to help budget constrained buyers get onto the Evergreen bandwagon so they can experience the difference Evergreen makes. You can read more about our Evergreen subscriptions here.
FIRST, UPGRADE FLEX THE CONTROLLERS
The FlashArray//X debuts with //X70 controllers, in other words at the very top end of our FlashArray family, and thus applicable as an upgrade for any existing FlashArray//M customers. The most likely scenario is a customer with a FlashArray//M50, under an Evergreen Gold subscription. Let’s assume you have an //M50 with 20TB of SAS flash in the chassis, and an external SAS shelf with 24TB, yielding a total of 44TB of raw SAS flash (about 132TB in effective capacity terms). You can now choose to Upgrade Flex to either an //M70 or an //X70, but for this example we’ll go with //X70.
You purchase a 91TB Upgrade Flex bundle, and receive, with this bundle, full list price trade-in credit for your existing //M50 controllers to put towards the list price of the new //X70 controllers. The resulting total list price is then discounted as part of the typical sales engagement. The result is you get an additional 91TB of NVMe-enabled DirectFlash (in 10 DirectFlash Modules) to handle your near-term capacity growth needs, and you only pay the incremental difference between the controllers along the way. Now it’s time to get the next generation //X controllers installed.
OPTION #1: KEEP YOUR SAS FLASH AND EXPAND WITH NVME-ENABLED DIRECTFLASH
Let’s face it – the SAS flash modules deployed with our FlashArrays are still very early in their lifespan and working great, so we expect most customers will want to keep using that flash and slowly evolve their mix to use more and more DirectFlash (and make the array go faster and faster) as they expand and consolidate (with Capacity Consolidation) until the array is 100% DirectFlash and 0% SAS flash. So in this first option we’ll keep all the SAS flash in the array.
The FlashArray//X70 controllers require DirectFlash in the chassis but support SAS flash in the external shelves. So that means we first need to transfer the 20TB SAS flash in the //M chassis into an empty SAS shelf. You plug in the empty shelf and simply start pulling the SAS Flash Modules (FMs) from the //M chassis one by one and inserting them into the waiting empty shelf. Yes, you read that right. Our FMs are fully hot swappable with no downtime or performance disruption. Everything can be done during production hours, no maintenance window required. Purity recognizes that the FMs (and their data) have moved and adjusts seamlessly and transparently. This non-disruptive FM reconfiguration is a key capability of FlashArray’s unique Evergreen architecture.
Once all of the SAS flash is moved from the chassis to the shelf, it’s time to swap controllers – again completely non-disruptively. You pull out the first //M controller and replace it with an //X controller. And then do the same thing with the remaining controller. And of course you send us back your (now) old //M controllers.
Just like that, your FlashArray//M has transformed to a next-generation FlashArray //X, fully NVMe and DirectFlash capable. The last step is to insert the 91TB data pack of DirectFlash into the empty //X chassis. Note the 91TB data pack only takes up half the space in the chassis, leaving room for easy future expansion.
Your FlashArray//X now has 2 external shelves containing a total of 44TB of SAS flash and a chassis with 91TB of DirectFlash for a total of 135TB raw (~400TB effective). We have a total footprint of 7 rack units (RU) and a density of ~57 Effective TB/RU. The performance of the array is now much higher, sitting about halfway between //M and //X (since the array is half SAS flash and half DirectFlash).
OPTION #2: CONSOLIDATE INTO 100% NVME-ENABLED DIRECTFLASH
But what if you want maximum density and maximum performance with 100% DirectFlash, and you want it now? In this option we’ll expand capacity in the array much further and consolidate all of the SAS flash into DirectFlash – all without re-buying any TBs along the way. This is where our Evergreen Gold subscription really shines.
We pick up right where we left off with 44TB of SAS flash in 2 shelves and 91TB of DirectFlash in the chassis. You use Capacity Consolidation to purchase a 183TB datapack of DirectFlash comprised of ten 18.3TB DirectFlash Modules (DFMs) and receive full TB-for-TB credit for your existing 44TB of SAS flash. That means you only pay for the incremental 183-44=139TB of raw flash. That’s right – no re-buying of TBs!
You then insert the 10 DFMs into the free space in the //X chassis, and behind the scenes Purity transparently and non-disruptively evacuates all of the data from your two SAS shelves into the new DirectFlash in the //X chassis. Purity also performs a secure wipe of all data in the original SAS flash. When complete, you unplug the existing SAS shelves and send them back to us. And that’s it! You now have 274TB of DirectFlash in the chassis (about 820TB effective) in a footprint of only 3 rack units (RU). That yields a capacity density of ~273 Effective TB/RU, with 4X the performance density (GB/s and IOPS per RU) compared to our already fast and dense FlashArray//M. You now own the new consolidation king!
A SUBSCRIPTION TO INNOVATION
Our unique Evergreen Storage subscriptions provide a radically better alternative to support-centric offerings typical in the storage industry, and give an experience that comes close to a true managed storage utility – but in your data center.
ACCEPT NO SUBSTITUTES
There has never been a better time to be a storage buyer. With our Evergreen Storage portfolio, you are getting a true subscription to innovation that simply keeps going and getting better. NVMe, DirectFlash, and FlashArray //X are the latest big examples and we’re driven – and excited – to keep raising the bar year in, year out. With an approach this disruptive to the industry status quo, it was inevitable that other vendors would attempt to imitate us.
So, here are two simple questions to ask your storage vendor to help you compare what they are offering to Evergreen Storage:
- Will my upgrades, whether within an array generation or across generations, be non-disruptive to both performance and availability, and without data migration (i.e. data leaving the system)?
- Will I need to re-purchase any of my controllers, capacity, or software, whenever I move from one array generation to the next, for a decade or more?
These two questions really get at the heart of what it means to be truly Evergreen. Storage IaaS, on-premises, that can just keep going and improving the way the modern cloud era demands – and that doesn’t compel you to keep re-buying what you’ve already purchased.