Introducing our Second Generation: FlashArray 300-Series with the Purity Operating Environment 2.0
Today Pure Storage announces a major upgrade to its FlashArray series, the FA-300 Series arrays running the Purity Operating Environment 2.0. This is an important update for Pure Storage, as we are successfully ending our Early Adopter Program, and have graduated the FlashArray to “General Availability” status. For more info on this corporate milestone, and some thoughts for where Pure Storage fits in the flash market at large, see today’s post from our CEO, Scott Dietzen. In this post we’ll take a quick tour of the new FlashArray features in this release.
What’s New in the Second-Generation FlashArray
1. Active/Active HA. The biggest new feature that we’re introducing is active/active high availability. Given the mission-critical environments where the FlashArray is targeted and has been deployed, high availability is a must. The FlashArray’s HA architecture features:
- Active / active controllers: all LUNs are available on all ports, our default configuration is to round-robin I/O between all ports on both controllers for the best performance.
- Mirrored NV-RAM: the FlashArray commits I/Os to mirrored NV-RAM devices before acknowledgement to initiators. This NV-RAM tier allows for all further operations (deduplication, compression, and writing to the flash itself) to be asynchronous to the host, and is critical to enable Purity’s data reduction while maintaining performance.
- Hot-swap everything easily: with the FlashArray critical components aren’t stuck inside the box, all flash drives, NV-RAM devices, and even controllers are easily externally hot-swappable.
- Stateless controllers: because the NV-RAM tier is external to the controllers (and shared between them), the FlashArray’s controllers are completely stateless. In the event of a failure simply plug-in a new controller to the active array.
2. FlashCare™ Technology. The FlashArray was designed for 100% consumer-grade MLC flash. While our competitors rely on eMLC or SLC flash to extend life, the FlashArray uses special software we call FlashCare Technology to harden MLC flash, greatly extending its life and dramatically improving raw performance to deliver consistent sub-millisecond latency. The result is an array which is warrantied against 5+ years of useful life, even if the face of operations at maximum specifications. FlashCare features:
- 100% virtualized, wide-dispersed data layout: Purity virtualizes all flash in the system and efficiently spreads data evenly across the entire pool of flash. This yields benefits in wear leveling, as well as highly parallelizes performance to ensure no hot-spots.
- Flash geometry-aligned writes: Purity uses its NV-RAM tier to batch-up writes, and only writes to the flash in large, multi-MB chunks which are aligned to the SSD erase-block geometry. This ensures that the SSD is performing minimal internal data movement, extending life and improving performance.
- Non-blocking reads & writes: Each SSD in the FlashArray is micro-scheduled, ensuring that at a given moment it is either reading or writing, but never both. The unique architecture of RAID-3D™ enables this non-blocking IO architecture, by servicing read requests from low-overhead parity when necessary.
- Real-time IO QoS monitoring: each IO to flash is timed in the system, and long IOs are instantly re-built from parity when necessary, removing IO spikes and outliers that are common in other flash devices.
- Flash personality layer: Purity understands each SSD intimately, and knows the perfect way to send IO to a SSD to maximize it’s life and performance. The FPL allows multiple generations of SSDs to reside in a single array, common since SSDs change every 9-12 months but arrays have a useful life of 5-7+ years.
3. Data Integrity Fabric. While Flash has significant advantages over spinning disk, one of its challenges is a bit error rate that is orders-of-magnitude higher than traditional spinning disk. In addition to leveraging the ECC code built-in to each of its SSDs, the FlashArray implements its own Data Integrity Fabric:
- Host block-level checksums: every block of data sent from the host is checksumed as it enters the FlashArray, and this checksum is verified at every level, and finally before IO is ever returned.
- Array page-level checksum: in addition to the block-level checksums, the pages that are stored by the FlashArray have their own checksums. This means that any latent bit errors must pass through two orthogonal levels of checksum verification.
- Triple-protected metadata: the FlashArray’s extensive metadata structures are stored alongside data in dual-parity format, and a third log-structured copy of metadata is also persisted to allow for metadata re-build in the event of a catastrophic failure.
- Auto-healing from RAID-3D™: if a bit error issue, data corruption, or metadata corruption is detected, then the FlashArray’s dual-parity-or-better RAID-3D is used to transparently recover data without user intervention.
4. VMware vSphere 5.0 Ready Certification, with VAAI Support: the FlashArray is now VMware Ready (well, almost…results are submitted to VMware, just waiting to make it onto the HCL in the coming days), including support for the following VAAI APIs:
- Write Same / Block Zero: enables VMware to efficiently send large blocks of zeros to the FlashArray without incurring a network transfer tax. These zeros are stored efficiently without space consumption on the FlashArray.
- UNMAP: enables VMware to TRIM previously-used space from a datastore, such as from a VM deletion or Storage vMotion, resulting in better space efficiency on the array.
- Atomic Test/Set: allows for more scalable SCSI reservations from multiple vSphere servers sharing the same datastore/LUN.
5. Full-Array Data Encryption: The FlashArray now supports data-at-rest encryption with zero performance overhead. This is a good alternative to host-based or database-based encryption options, protecting against customer data loss exposure from device theft or retirement. The FlashArray supports a built-in key management scheme which secures each drive independently, yet doesn’t require any end-user intervention or key management.
6. New Web-Based Management GUI: The FlashArray was designed from the ground-up with simplicity in mind. Simplicity is best demonstrated, so I’d encourage you to watch this short demo, and see for yourself how easy managing storage can be:
A Final Word of Thanks
With the successful conclusion of our Early Access Program, I’d just like to offer a final word of thanks to all the customers who have chosen Pure Storage and worked with us over the past two years to build a better FlashArray. We’ve learned a great deal from your feedback, and I hope each of you have felt like you were listened to, were involved in our design process, and can see your fingerprints on our first GA product, because those fingerprints are everywhere! Although the Early Access Program is ending, we haven’t stopped listening…keep the feedback coming, and we look forward to delighting you with every generation of the FlashArray.
And to those who aren’t customers yet, take a few minutes to check-out all the new content on our website, and we’d love to turn you into a Pure Storage believer. Hit-up the orange “contact us” button at the top-right of our website and we’d be happy to schedule an in-person demonstration of the FlashArray to go deeper.