Infinidat’s InfiniBox - What’s the Big Deal? A Better Product! - Part 1
Now that I've been with Infinidat for awhile I can clearly see that there are three things that truly differentiate Infinidat’s InfinBox from all the alternative Enterprise Storage offerings in the market while providing greater customer value:
1.) A better product
2.) A better business model
3.) A better vision for the future
I want to dive into each of them and highlight why I think they might matter for you.
First, let’s start with a look at the InfiniBox...
1) It’s Simply a Better Product
- They understood the new and emerging challenges that users of large amounts of data would face in a multi-Petabyte (and soon to be Exabyte) world
- They began with the freedom of a fresh start, unencumbered by any aspect of previous legacy architectures so that they could do things the right way for future storage requirements
- They had the advantages of insights and expertise that only come with experience, having learned from the previous successes, including EMC’s Symmetrix and IBM’s XIV. The full core team transcends three generations of engineers, to balance that experience with new and fresh ideas
There were some crucial assumptions that were made that influenced the design objectives of the InfiniBox architecture:
- A key objective was to create a multi-PB scale architecture that could easily embrace new and emerging technologies
- There are already several well-established and successful storage architectures and vendors in the market, so InfiniBox MUST BE VERY DIFFERENT. Being marginally better won’t cut it if you’re looking to consider an alternative to existing solutions; Infinidat needs to be crazy-better!
- The solutions that previously existed in the market that approached Petabyte-scale were never designed for - and probably won’t scale-up - to work well in a multi-Petabyte or Exabyte world, so a new approach was needed
- The focus should be on SOFTWARE and how to provide high-value functionality and capabilities, while always using exclusively open commodity hardware components for the physical platform to reduce cost and avoid obsolescence
- The product issues that most users care about when it comes to storage (in no specific order) are usually: Availability, Reliability, Performance, Cost, and Ease of Operation, so let’s provide you with clear advantages over alternative storage for ALL of those areas without compromising one for another
- Since history has shown that most user issues and outages associated with storage are related to human error (especially during periods of IT infrastructure change), let’s keep things simple and massively reduce or eliminate the need for most traditional user interaction with storage
So what’s the Big Deal about the product?
InfiniBox offers “faster than all-flash” performance at a much lower cost than all-flash systems
It does this by simply having smarter and more extensive software than any other storage product for cache and performance management; that’s our “secret sauce,” and there are over 140 patents associated with it. InfiniBox’s Neural Cache uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to continuously learn and adapt to each system’s unique data usage patterns. The longer the system runs, the smarter and faster it gets. Infinibox can provide higher cache-hit ratios than any other product in the market as a result; always 100% for writes, and typically between 93% to 99% for reads.
The primary cache of InfiniBox is DRAM, and the secondary read cache is SSDs. The persistent storage is all ultra-low-cost SAS disks, which are read sequentially, and written sequentially in a log-structured manner. Access is massively parallel, as data is striped across all drives to optimize performance. Unlike conventional legacy storage, there are no hot spots, no need for performance tuning, and no need for tiering of datasets/workloads; InfiniBox delivers consistent high performance regardless of capacity. Also, unlike legacy storage, InfiniBox uses a Trie for metadata instead of a binary tree or hashing algorithms to maintain ultra-fast performance even at hyper-scale.
OK, I know what you’re thinking - “Come on, really? How can a storage system with all the persistent storage based on conventional disks keep pace with, let alone outperform, an all-flash array?”. The answer is that it really is all about the software and intelligence, and not about the media and hardware. Many people were skeptical of EMC’s original Symmetrix in the early 1990s when it claimed to outperform IBM high-end mainframe storage by using intelligent caching in front of much-cheaper conventional smaller disks...until they saw it for themselves, and the rest is history. Infinidat has taken that concept well beyond what was pioneered by Symmetrix, to a higher level of intelligence.
An analogy: If I were racing against Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton and I got to use his Mercedes-AMG Petronas vehicle, but he had to race me in a 1972 Chevy Vega, I think I wouldn’t stand a chance against his superior race knowledge and skills. I would lose despite having faster “hardware” and being a reasonably competent driver. That is the difference between software and hardware.
At Infinidat, we’d like the opportunity to prove it for you! Based upon us modeling the actual current performance of your existing storage, we may be able to give you a written guarantee showing precisely how much InfiniBox will improve your performance. Alternatively, talk to any of our existing users about what their experience has been.
Moreover, looking forward, competitive offerings that plan to use Storage Class Memory (SCM) in the future in place of NAND SSDs still won’t catch up to the performance of InfiniBox, since intelligent caching to DRAM will continue to be faster than what SCM media can technically deliver.
InfiniBox is more highly available and reliable than traditional Enterprise Storage, allowing for many customers to receive a 100% Uptime Guarantee
The 5+ Exabyte Infinidat global customer installed base has achieved 99.99999% (“seven-nines”) average uptime. That equates to an industry-leading average of roughly 3.2 seconds per year of unplanned downtime. Now with Active-Active Replication recently added as a standard feature and included with the solution, you can achieve a two-site Zero Recovery Point Objective (0 RPO) at Zero Recovery Time Objective (0 RTO) solution. This provides continuous operations even in the case of multiple types of failures (including an entire site failure) without requiring human intervention.
Unlike legacy conventional storage architectures that often use dual controllers or aggregations of dual controllers, all mission-critical hardware components (including the full controllers) of InfiniBox are triple-redundant, and are active/active/active, enabling a proven higher degree of confidence and availability.
Data is stored in the persistent media using 64KB (user data) + 4KB (metadata) sections and is written using 14 data sections and 2 parity sections (14+2). A total InfiniRAID stripe is thus 16 X 68KB sections generating a 1088KB stripe across 16 independent drives.
Spare devices are not required, as every disk reserves a small percentage of capacity for device rebuilds, and InfinBox can logically rebuild a failed device much faster than any other Enterprise Storage system and is resilient against even multiple potential failures. For example, InfiniBox can recover from a dual-drive failure scenario of a 12TB drive in less than 15 minutes!
InfiniBox uses advanced techniques to avoid silent data corruption. Data placement is tracked for each section’s logical block address relation to physical block address on the drives. This metadata, along with standard CRC checks, is stored in the header of each section written. When the section is read into memory, if the address in the section header does not match the location on the device from which it was just retrieved, then some form of silent data corruption is assumed to have occurred. InfiniRaid dual parity protection then uses the remaining parity stripe and data stripes to rebuild the corrupt data set on the fly to return the correct data to the host.
The Bottom Line
All this adds up to a storage system with higher performance and higher availability than what you’re probably accustomed to with your incumbent storage system. InfiniBox has both a lower acquisition cost and a lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) than all competitive alternatives.
Historically, we’ve all had to compromise somewhere between those three issues of Performance, Availability, and Cost. The saying goes that you can pick any two of those three attributes to be positive, at the expense of the third. These are typically the same trade-offs that we encounter when considering what kind of car we want to buy:
- If it’s Fast and Good, it won’t be Low Cost!
- If it’s Good and Low Cost, it won’t be Fast!
- If it’s Fast and Low Cost, it won’t be Good!
When it comes to Enterprise Storage, InfiniBox uniquely breaks the rules and give you all three without compromise, at multi-Petabyte scale.
Up next in Part 2, I’ll take a look at how Infinidat’s business model can reduce your costs while increasing your flexibility, productivity, and agility.
To see what Infinidat’s customers have to say about their experience, and to compare the experiences of Infinidat customers with your current storage vendor, please check out Gartner Peer Insights.