The 4 TB Sun F5100 Flash Array product launch is imminent. Much talked up by Andy Bechtolsheim the 1U array promises 1 million IOPS, 10 GB/sec throughput, 64 SAS channels, redundant power & cooling and SES management.

Beyond the raw performance the F5110 is notable for 2 technical advances.

  • The Sun flash DIMM modules (FMods) which appears to support 64 GB – or is it only 48 GB? – of SLC flash on a notebook SO-DIMM card form factor.
  • A set of 4 super-capacitors that maintain power for the FMod’s on-board DRAM write buffers and I/O interfaces if mains power is lost – an innovative enterprise feature. The cool feature: a 10 minute charge time.

Here’s a picture of an FMod prototype from a presentation Andy gave several months ago.


The F5100 is spec’d with 80 FMods, which means 50 GB per. Are they really 64 GB and over-configured or is the spec very optimistic?

Also, what looks like an SO-DIMM is accessed as a disk. Would you give up one of your notebook DIMM slots to get 48 or 64 GB of very fast disk?

No v.1 product is perfect and the F5100 is no exception. There is no multipath access. Each FMod group attaches to one host through a single SAS link.

There is no cascading of F5100s. Each has to connect directly to a host SAS HBA.

Each FMod is a specific physical address. If one is replaced “Applications and utilities that depend on the old device path will need to be reconfigured to work with the new one.” Curious.

To maximize performance do not configure more than 20 FMods per HBA.

Software support
The usual suspects: Solaris 10.5/08×64/SPARC or greater plus patches
Microsoft Windows Windows 2003 32-bit (R2 SP2) & 64-bit (SP2), Windows 2008 64-bit (SP1), Windows 2008 64-bit (SP2)
RHEL 4 U5 32/64-bit, RHEL 5 64-bit, RHEL 4 U6 32/64-bit, RHEL 5 U2 32/64-bit, RHEL 5 U1 32/64-bit
SUSE 10 32/64-bit SP1, SUSE 10 SP2 32/64-bit, SUSE 9 SP3 32/64-bit, SUSE 9 SP4 32/64-bit, SUSE 10 SP1 64-bit

There’s a required patch for Windows 2003.

Only 2 SAS HBAs, both from Sun, are supported on the F5100.

The StorageMojo take
No pricing or delivery as yet, so it isn’t officially announced AFAIK. Given the SLC capacity and current prices I’d guess that it will retail in the $80-$90k range.

The more interesting question is how Oracle will integrate this into their database server strategy. If we’re lucky Kevin Closson or someone just as knowledgeable will weigh in with a survey of the possibilities.

Kudos to the Sun engineers who have been driving flash forward faster than almost anyone else in the industry.

Courteous comments welcome, of course. How would you use this box?

Here’s a link to 17 MB of F5100 documentation. Update 9-04: Looks like Sun has pulled all the F5100 docs down. Maybe the announcement isn’t as imminent as I’d thought. End update.

If you’re late to the flash party, here’s an accessible YouTube video of Andy talking about flash and Sun’s strategy several months ago. There’s a lot more about flash here on StorageMojo.