March 4, 2015

SanDisk shakes the Flash palm

SanDisk ( | NASD:SNDK), one of the Flash leader, made yesterday a strategic announcement with a new offering named InfiniFlash. With this product, SanDisk enters in the very hot and competitive segment of All-Flash Array aka AFA with several other hot companies such Pure Storage, SolidFire, Violin Memory, Tegile, Nimble Storage... among others, of course I don't mention here AFA offering from not pure players. A few weeks after the spin-out of IoControl business in fact the historical NexGen Storage company and probably with a good understanding of all good points from NexGen and Fusion-io, SanDisk made this surprising announcement. But was it really a surprise ? let me put things in perspective:
  • SanDisk recruited Sumit Sadana in April 2010 to lead Business Development and be the Chief Strategy Officer. This recruitment was a clear indicator of a need for a new blood for new directions.
  • 1st acquisition under Sadana's reign was Pliant Technology for 327M$ in May 2011,
  • the 2nd was FlashSoft, the caching software company, in February 2012,
  • the 3rd was Schooner Information Technology, an expert in MySQL performance, in June 2012, this is today ZetaScale,
  • the 4th was Smart Storage Systems in August 2013,
  • and the 5th was Fusion-io for 1.1B$ in July 2014. NexGen was acquired by Fusion-io at the beginning of 2013 for approximately 120M$ and Fusion-io also acquired ioTurbine for 95M$ in August 2011. ioTurbine became ION at Fusion-io.
  • In parallel, Sumit Sadana launched SanDisk Ventures and invested in several companies such Whiptail, Panzura, Tegile, Nexenta and Stratoscale.
All these elements demonstrate the clear strategy of SanDisk, easy to say after facts, but in fact crystal clear, build its own Flash array.
Back to InfiniFash. This product is different as Eric Burgener, Research Director at IDC, named the category "Big Data Flash" with its introduction to the market. InfiniFlash is a 3U chassis with massive capacity, the maximum size is 512TB. Wow impressive in a so reduced space. Even Skyera, now HGST, subsidiary of WDC, didn't make such dense array. 3 models exist: IF100, IF500 and IF700. IF100 is dedicated for integration with APIs for customer and oems, IF500 targets a mixed block and object powered by Ceph and IF700 for DB performance in block mode powered by ION software. The array integrates 64 x 8TB cards for that total of 512TB raw for less than 2$ per GB without any data reduction techniques such compression or deduplication. Up to 8 hosts can be connected to the chassis in a block mode. The product can deliver more than 780k IOPS, a Throughput superior of 7GB/s and a latency less than 1ms. SanDisk makes great utilization of various technology acquired in the past such ION from Fusion-io, FlashSoft for caching and ZetaScale from Schooner, see my rapid list of acquisition above. The key messages around InfiniFlash are: 5x density, 50x performance with 80% less power in comparison with HDD arrays.
Again, the product is impressive at least on the spec side, let's wait some return of experience but clearly it shakes the Flash array segment. We expect some reaction from competition to that announcement before the summer...

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