Western Digital reshapes IntelliFlash portfolio with enhanced OS and new entry-level model for high-end NVMe flash

The new IntelliFlash OS 3.10 scales up performance by doubling performance and density, while the new N5100 NVMe all flash array adds an entry level model to the high end series, to expand the market downward.

The Western Digital IntelliFlash N-series

Today, Western Digital is announcing some significant additions and enhancements to its IntelliFlash data center systems portfolio of NVMe-flash, all-flash and hybrid-flash arrays. They begin with IntelliFlash OS 3.10, a major upgrade to the software which directly enhances performance by doubling performance and density, and enabling new product capabilities. The new products announced include the N5100, a new lower-cost NVMe all-flash array intended to make the price point more attractive in some use cases where this technology has not yet played.

“IntelliFlash is our primary storage offering, which comes in three flavours, the entry level T-series, the HD high density-series, and the high-performance N-series,” said Erik Ottem, Senior Director of Product Marketing at WD. The architecture and the brand came with the 2017 acquisition of Tegile Systems, and WD has since invested notably in the technology.

“We have made some significant improvements in the OS which impact performance, which especially impacts the high-performance series,” Ottem said. “The OS changes also let us double the size of SAS SSD for the HD high density series.”

The top of the line N-Series has been expanded, with the addition of a new entry level model for this type of array. Until now, the Series has had two family members, the N5200 and the N5800.

“The N5800 is the high-performance model, and is used for real-time applications, but many buy the N5200 because it is cheaper, while the performance is good enough for most workloads,” Ottem said. “We are now expanding the market for NVMe at the entry level with the N5100 series, which has less performance but is even more affordable.”

The N5100 has the same 200 µsec latency as the other two models in the series, with the low latency being a hallmark of the N Series. One difference is in IOPS, where the N5100 has 400k, compared to 800k for the N5200 and 1.7 million for the N5800. Another difference is in raw capacity, 400 TB compared to 1.4 PB for the N5200 and 2.5 PB for the N5800. The cost is significantly less than the N5200 however, in the range of half the price or a little above.

The whole N-Series in particular also benefits from the upgrade to the IntelliFlash OS software, with IntelliFlash OS 3.10, which gives those enhanced performance numbers. It doubles the IOPS from the previous version, reduces the latency by a factor of 0.8 and increases the bandwidth by 1.5x.

“We have changed the data paths to make things more streamlined, so customers who upgrade will see a nice performance bump,” Ottem said.

“We are also introducing a new feature with 3.10, Live Dataset Migration,” Ottem added. “It lets you move datasets while they are being used, with no downtime and no forklift upgrade. It’s very fluid and non-disruptive. This can be used both for migration,  or just moving data to a different tier.” The new OS version also adds an Amazon S3 cloud connector.

For the high density HD-series, the upgraded OS has enabled the creation of the new IntelliFlash HD2160 model. It becomes the high end member of the HD series, and doubles the density of the HD2080 2RU [rack unit] offering, up from 184TB raw to 368TB.

“Another enhancement with the IntelliFlash OS 3.10 is that it lets us double the size of the SSDs that go into SAS-based expansion, with support for 15 TB  SSDs,”Ottem stated. “That’s up from 7 TB before.”

OS 3.10 also creates a unified framework that enables seamless mixing and matching of different IntelliFlash arrays for specific workloads. So customers could choose to scale up to 2.5PB of flash in a single array with the high-density HD2160, or combine an N-series array with SAS-based expansion to achieve the right mix of performance and economics for specific workloads.

Other 3.10 enhancements include SMB3 protocol optimization for Windows File Server 2016 deployment on Hyper-V, simplified VMware deployments and management of VMware vSphere datastores, enriched administrative features such as Powershell Toolkit for automating Windows storage, and the robust IntelliCare predictive-analytics health monitoring service.

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