HPE: All Flash, (And) Substance Too

The enterprise market has been in commodity hell since at least the mid-1980s, the tape, disk and now / version of Moore’s Law of constantly decreasing prices and margins with constantly increasing capacities and capabilities. To stem the bleeding, new and existing storage vendors have been flocking to flash technology, in hybrid — mixed flash and disk — and all-flash drives, with the latest such announcement coming from Hewlett Packard Enterprise. However, while total enterprise storage systems factory revenue declined 2.2% year over year to $10.4 billion during the fourth quarter of 2015, and capacity shipments increased 10.7% YoY, HPE was the only top-five vendor that grew its storage revenues.Congratulations (and I’m not saying that just because I own HP/E shares).

“The enterprise storage market closed out 2015 on a slight downturn, as spending on traditional external arrays continues to decline,” said IDC’s Liz Conner, Research Manager, Storage Systems. “Over the past year, end user focus has shifted towards server-based storage, software-defined storage, and cloud-based storage. As a result, traditional enterprise storage vendors are forced to revamp and update their product portfolios to meet these shifting demands.”

Flash has also been the beneficiary of enterprise storage customers, according to IDC’s most recent numbers. The All Flash Array (AFA) market generated $955.4 million in revenue during the quarter, up 71.9% YoY, while the Hybrid Flash Array (HFA) segment of the market rang up $2.9 billion in revenue, representing just over a quarter (28%) of the total market.

Storage was a big part of HPE’s recent success, according to President and CEO Meg Whitman at the company’s Q1 earnings call earlier this month. “We had record revenue for 3PAR, driven by triple-digit constant currency growth in all-flash, which grew at three times the market rates.”

Which brings me to HPE’s news, which included converged flash array, and 6600 , and the program. “At the highest altitude… storage is at the heart of a lot of major transformations… it’s a great time to be in storage… for HPE”, said Brad Park, Director GTM Strategy and Enablement for HPE Storage.

He told IT Trends & Analysis that he sees the move to flash as being similar as the move to virtualization and VMware a decade ago. “I think flash and the move to the all flash datacenter has a lot of parallels.”

Flash has come a long way in the last five years, said Park, driven by three elements that make the all-flash datacenter very relevant: performance, affordability and the most topical, functionality. “The third piece and where we think the datacenter conversation is happening today is around enterprise-class features. It has become table stakes.”

A couple of years ago HP guaranteed 50% capacity savings with 3PAR and the new Get Thinner Guarantee program ups the ante with a free, up-front workload assessment and a written assurance of as much as 75% capacity savings. We will go into customer accounts, do an analysis on their data, and very confidently predict what their savings will be, and write it in the contract, said Park.

The mainstreaming of flash is a conversation every datacenter administrator is thinking through, he said. “The one-two punch is a guarantee in writing that they can go through that transition… more than just a cherry on top… but this rips away any concerns… they might have.”

With the biggest slice of the enterprise storage pie — and the most to lose as disk sales get squeezed — declared 2016 the “Year of All-Flash” for primary storage. It also claimed that with 39% of all-flash storage solutions, it had more ‘more than the next three competitors combined and is also the market share leader in enterprise storage solutions that include both all-flash and hybrid flash storage arrays.’

At the start of March EMC ‘doubled down’ on flash, significantly expanding the size/scope of its flash-based solutions and committing to all-flash architectures for future primary storage offerings, noted analyst Charles King, Pund-IT. ‘Of the new EMC solutions, the DSSD D5 system is obviously the Ferrari on the showroom floor—built to deliver the extreme speed and breathtaking latency required for cutting edge real time analytics.’

However King believes the new VMAX and VNX Series All Flash solutions and the XtremIO for general purpose effort ‘are worth keeping a close eye on. Getting mainstream customers onto its bandwagon is what it will really take to get the all-Flash future underway.’

Mark Peters, ESG Practice Director and Senior Analyst (Storage), Enterprise Strategy Group, was also impressed with EMC’s continued ‘march to flash’. ‘Whatever a market leader does is always noteworthy; these new products and approaches merely serve to remind us how EMC got to be a leader in the first place. They are compelling, considered, and surrounded by good-old-fashioned EMC razzmatazz (that can almost make you believe that no one else has thought to use flash!)’

At the end of February Cisco was promoting NetApp AFAs as an integral part of its converged infrastructure portfolio. “We believe that FlexPod utilizing the latest Cisco UCS servers, Nexus 9K switches, Cisco ACI, and All-Flash FAS can deliver new levels of performance and create a modern technology foundation to meet the demands of business critical applications,” said Cisco’s Dhritiman Dasgupta, VP of Product Marketing.

In October Dell announced that the SC9000 storage array controller, new 12Gb SAS expansion enclosures and next generation array software deliver the lowest cost/GB of flash at 65¢/GB. It said the new arrays can be configured as either all-flash or hybrid and single-tier or multi-tier optimized, has over 3PB of raw capacity, and can achieve over 385,000 IOPS.

On March 1 IBM announced a partnership with SanDisk to bring out a unique class of next-generation, software-defined, all-flash storage solutions for the data center. “The market-leading combination of IBM Spectrum Scale and SanDisk’s InfiniFlash solution delivers key differentiators for our mutual clients’ applications and workloads,” said Eric Herzog, vice president product marketing and management, of IBM Storage Systems Division. “These solutions will be designed to break new ground and make all-flash storage exceedingly cost-effective for a wide range of use cases, from high-performance databases to virtualized environments to big data oceans to extra-dense active archive repositories and more.”

Park wouldn’t give specifics on where HPE storage and flash are going, but said with data having to move closer to compute, the company is very well positioned. “We are assuring customers we have a consistent and coherent approach.”

Dirty Details Done Dirt Cheap (Relatively Speaking)

-HPE 3PAR 20840 Storage Systems are available worldwide, orderable and shipping immediately with a street price starting at $147,000, Supporting 1,920 Drives (up to 1,024 SSDs) and 15PB usable; support for 2,304 Drives (up to 1,152 SSDs) and 21PB usable supported as of 2H2016.

-The 8TB 7.2K Nearline SAS drives are available worldwide, orderable and shipping from March 29th with a street price starting at $1,705.

-The 3PAR Get Thinner Program is now available worldwide for new sales of 3PAR 8000 and 20000 Storage Systems.

-The StoreOnce 5500 will be available worldwide from March 31st with a street price starting at $35,100.

-The StoreOnce 6600 will be available worldwide from March 31st with a street price starting at $75,000.

Author: Steve Wexler

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