The top 5 alternatives to XtremIO

by Robin Harris on Monday, 9 December, 2013

If a well-funded startup came to you and asked you to bet your business on a brand-new architecture and product, what would you say? “I’ll wait” is a likely answer.

So why is it any different when that start up product comes from EMC? You could argue that they have industry-leading engineering design and test practices – not sure it’s true, but you could argue it – and you could point to their sales and support organizations as reasons to believe that all will be well.

But the real question is not how well EMC reduces the risk of going with a new product. The real question is how does the risk of their product compare to other products that have been in the market for years and have thousands of installed units?

It is in the nature of storage engineering that every new product is essentially in extended beta. You’ll see one set of problems using 10 systems, another set with 100, and yet another with 1,000. Squash each set of bugs and eventually you get a solid product. There are no shortcuts.

Compared to these veterans named below the XtremIO product is very young. But even if you love EMC there are good reasons to check out the competition.

Has EMC legitimized the flash array market?
The bastards say welcome. Depending on what you find compelling about XtremIO here are StorageMojo’s top five alternatives.

Mature scale-out
Hewlett-Packard’s 3PAR product line is hard to beat on maturity. The engineering began over a decade ago and has gone through several generations. 3PAR was engineered from the ground up with eight nodes, has been selling into enterprises for years and is supported by HP’s global service organization. They have all-flash and mixed configurations.

Consistent low latency
Consider Violin Memory. TPC-C benchmarks show that their latency is not only very low on average but is much lower at the 90th percentile.

They also have a good answer to the problem of slowing flash performance as feature sizes decrease. Unlike hard drives increases in flash storage density do not translate into higher performance – in fact, the reverse is true: flash gets slower as feature sizes shrink.

SSD-based array
Another all-flash array to look at is from Pure Storage. Based on published reports EMC is particularly concerned about Pure, giving their sales people specific anti-Pure talking points.

That is common when a competitor is making inroads. Be a good customer and check out Pure yourself so you know exactly what dangers you are avoiding.

Big iron features and management
HDS has taken a different approach to flash by enabling customers to embed either a partial or total flash array behind their mature VSP controller. This is not to be confused with EMC’s original addition of an STEC flash drive to the VMAX, which was widely derided and not very successful.

Simplified management and good performance
As several commenters pointed out, performance is often not the driving requirement. If that is true in your case, take a look at Nimble Storage.

Their clusterable appliances include always-on wire-speed compression, disaster recovery and backup all in one low cost and easy to deploy appliance. And you avoid the hassle of separate tiers for flash and disk.

The StorageMojo take
Even if you decide to take a chance on EMC’s new product, investigating a competitor will help ensure you get EMC’s best possible price. EMC’s competitive allowances – up to 90% of the retail price – will win you the grudging respect of your finance group and ensure your EMC sales rep doesn’t take you for granted.

But you never know: you may find one of these other products is actually a better fit as well as being more mature. Where’s the downside in that?

The rate of change and the storage industry has been accelerating for the last 10 years. If you are not broadening your product scanning horizons, you are missing the most important changes in the industry.

Comments welcome, as always. I have done work for or been gifted with trips from most of these vendors sometime in the last several years. It’s amusing that Pure has a negotiation kit similar to something StorageMojo suggested a few weeks ago.

Question: who else should XtremIO prospects look at?

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Kevin Stay Monday, 9 December, 2013 at 11:14 am

Robin,

I thought Pure also did inline compression?

In any case, as I have already commented elsewhere, if a track record of enterprise grade reliability from the system is a must then 3PAR and HDS are really the only game in town today. Pure and Violin are exciting in some ways strictly from a technical perspective, but will they survive the coming bloodletting? Personally, I hope Pure does, but am still unwilling to bet enterprise data on that.

theGagne Monday, 9 December, 2013 at 12:53 pm

NexGen (FusionIO), or possibly WhipTail (Cisco aka “We’re Not Storage”).

Personally have used a FusionIO a little bit, seems ok. Haven’t really put it through it’s paces because my IO load in production is nowhere near it’s rated performance.

Bought it before its acquisition, and received some nice updates after they were acquired so it’s a win for us.

Oliver Walsdorf Monday, 9 December, 2013 at 11:20 pm

Perhaps customers should look at a hybrid storage player with a service free philosophy, high performance and a lower power consumption compared to other hybrid players. What about X-IO?

Mary Hall Friday, 13 December, 2013 at 10:37 am

Hi Robin, another solution customers may want to consider is IBM’s grid-scale storage technology and Storage XIV.
More information on this in the Storage Community> http://storagecommunity.org/ibmstorageexecutiveviewpoint/2013/12/09/open-letter-emc-following-xtremio-ga-announcement/

Customers like eBay have been using IBM Storage XIV with good results for some time.
Mary Hall, IBM

Erik Eyberg (IBM) Friday, 13 December, 2013 at 1:22 pm

Robin, I’m a big fan of your blog but I’m always surprised you don’t talk about IBM’s all-flash storage offerings in your coverage of other flash industry players. Our FlashSystem offerings have been winning head to head against XtremIO in many environments both during and after its protracted beta program. We have been particularly successful in primary data environments due to IBM’s Real-Time Compression technology, which XtremIO lacks.

Robin Harris Saturday, 14 December, 2013 at 6:55 am

Erik, I haven’t had much luck figuring out IBM’s storage strategy or working with IBM generally. As a result IBM storage is not on my radar. Sorry!

Robin

Sebastian Schmitzodorff Wednesday, 18 December, 2013 at 6:53 am

The Fusion-io iON Data Accelerator is something many tend to forget.
It doesn’t have many features apart from Performance and High availability. It gives you an all flash array with access times in the lower double digit microsecond space and up to currently 100TB in a single box. Enough to smoke most of the competition when it comes to IO and latency.

Disclosure: I don’t work for fusion-io, but do resell their products.

Sebastian

ScottL Friday, 20 December, 2013 at 9:39 am

Your head is buried in the sand if you don’t mention Cisco’s acquisition of Whiptail and the implications that has on all the UCS out there. There’s no way that product line will fail and their NDA roadmap on that is pretty intense stuff! Netapp EF-series is also a great all SSD play which isn’t mentioned in the article or the comments.

Charlie Liang Tuesday, 21 January, 2014 at 4:46 pm

Tintri is the glaring omission from your list. I may be biased since I work there, but I implore you to check out our solution for yourself. Here are some of the main advantages of Tintri:

+VM-aware storage – get complete insights on all your virtual machines instantly on the best UI in the industry
+Simple to use – a box takes just minutes to set up
+Flash performance at the price of disk – we have a 99% average flash hit rate and a 50% savings guarantee against NetApp

Gregg Holzrichter Thursday, 23 January, 2014 at 8:10 pm

Hi Robin,

One additional approach to consider is to take one of the HW offerings (flash or disk) from IBM, NetApp, Violin, Cisco or HP and add Atlantis ILIO software to provide advanced optimization of performance, capacity and provisioning through data services like inline dedup, compression, write coalescing and thin provisioning, utilizing server RAM as primary storage and providing in-memory performance. Atlantis has significant go-to-market engagements and rated and tested reference architectures with all of the partners listed above and has provided the winning edge against XtremIO on numerous occasions. 500,000 licenses sold to date. Launching into general server workloads shortly. Look forward to seeing you at the upcoming virtualization field day. http://www.atlantiscomputing.com

Robin Harris Thursday, 23 January, 2014 at 11:09 pm

Gregg, happy to learn more, but I no longer attend Tech Field Day events. Did you hear otherwise?

Robin

Bruce Friday, 24 January, 2014 at 1:22 am

Adding my bit:

Direct alternative to XtremIO is Kaminario. Ultra high performance, scale out all flash array with decent feature set. Their only challenge is their lack of channel and percieved niche play. Their customers appear to love them.

Another shout for Fusion’s ION Data Accelerator. Pretty featureless but insanely quick, because of thier PCIe flash tech. Its also very well priced considering their premium performance.

Other considerations include Solidfire who need to sort out their enterprise channel before its too late to enter that market. They do have immense scale out capability but it’s too expensive to replace all spinning disk in an enterprise environment. They have a small but growing foothold in the xSP market and recently launched a programme called CloudBuilders Channel Partner Program, which pretty much informs you of their focus. They’ll be OK from an architectural standpoint as the market matures but question is will their funding dry up before they can get there?

Lastly – everyones keeping their eye on Skyera. Too early to see how they are going to perform in the market right now. But seems very impressive architecturally and developing quite a buzz. Will be interesting to see their wins and customer feedback once Skyeagle goes GA later in 2014.

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