In this morning’s post on ZDNet on the diseconomies of flash sharing I discuss the fact that many NVMe/PCIe SSDs are as fast as most all flash arrays (AFA). What does that mean for the all flash array market?

Short answer: not good
Today a Dell PowerEdge Express Flash NVMe Performance PCIe SSD – ok, is spec’d to – offer ≈700,000 IOPS, with gigabytes per second of bandwidth. That’s in the range of many AFAs. The NVMe/PCIe SSD does all that for thousands of dollars, not $100k or more. And you can order one from NewEgg or Dell.

There are two obvious problems with the idea that NVMe/PCIe SSDs can take a major piece of the AFA market.

  • Services. AFAs offer many services that enable managing and sharing the storage. NVMe/PCIe SSDs are drives, leaving the management up to you.
  • Sharing. Put an AFA on a SAN and you have a shared resource. Any PCIe device is marooned in its host server.

But if hyper scale datacenters have taught us anything, it is that shared nothing clusters can offer many services and share hardware. All it takes is an appropriate software layer and lots and lots of network bandwidth.

With the rapid advent of 25 Gb/sec and faster Ethernet, the bandwidth issue is manageable. That leaves the software.

Given the size of the market opportunity, the software should arrive soon.

The StorageMojo take
AFAs and their more cost-effective hybrid brethren aren’t disappearing. There will always be applications where they will make sense, and a cadre of people who just don’t like NVMe/PCIe SSDs for enterprise work.

But I think this will be a hot area of contention, since most of the SSD vendors don’t make AFAs. They have little to lose by pushing NVMe/PCIe SSDs for broad adoption.

But it will mark the beginning of the end for array controllers as service platforms. Why rely on a doubly redundant array controller when you can rely on a virtually immortal cluster to host services?

This is going to be fun to watch.

Courteous comments welcome, of course.