IBM 8800 Storage Array
IBM has announced a new model in its 8000 Tier 1 series of storage arrays, to be generally available November 19, 2010. The key differences between the previous 8700 model and the new 8800 model is the use of 2.5 inch 6Gb/sec SAS-2 drives for the back end, and up to 8Gb/sec FC front-end ports.
It uses the same packaging as the new Storwize V7000 with 24 SAS drives in a 2U space.
The total number of drives is 1056 taking three frames. The frame layout is shown in figure 1.
The Power 6+ storage controllers provide a little more performance, but the main performance boost comes from the SAS drives. Also notable in the announcement is the availability of Easy Tier for managing automated tiering between solid-state disks (SSD) and other drives. A SAS 600GB SSD drive is available on the 8800. Easy Tier is available at the moment with two tiers, with additional tiers to come. The level of automation and sophistication of Easy Tier is impressive, and Wikibon believes this is best-of-breed for tier 1 systems.
The maximum size SAS drive available on the 8800 is 600GB, which gives a maximum of about 600 terabytes on a single array. The EMC VMAX fully populated with 2 TB SATA drives could provide a potential 4 petabytes of storage. The 8800 is limited to the high performance/high availability segment of the tier 1 marketplace; however, most installations will be comfortable with that positioning.
Power and Space
The SAS drives bring a significant reduction in space and power consumption for high performance configurations. Table 1 shows the comparison between the IBM 8700 with 3.5 inch drives and the IBM 8800 with 2.5 inch drives. Over a three-year period, an IBM 8000 installation could expect to save nearly $200,000 on space and heat compared to the 8800 SAS drives in a performance environment.
The IBM 8800 with SAS drives compares very favorably to the EMC VMAX in a performance configuration of 600GB drives. However, IBM and EMC still have a way to go to compare with the environmental profile of the newly announced Hitachi Virtual System Platform (VSP) or HP StorageWorks P9000, which can utilize 2.5 inch SAS drives. For capacity configurations, configurations with only SAS drives have worse environmentals that those using 3.5 inch SATA drives. Details can be found at SAS Drives Tier 1 to New Levels of Green.
The 8800 storage array is a welcome addition to the IBM 8000 series, providing additional power and reducing the footprint and power consumption significantly compared with earlier models. The 8800 comes with all the tier 1 functionality that is expected, and is an excellent tier 1 performance array. The Easy Tier software is best of breed for tier 1 storage arrays, and Wikibon believes that it will be extensively deployed.
The IBM 8800 does not have the drive and capacity options of EMC or Hitachi. IBM outperforms the EMC VMAX on environmentals for performance-focused arrays but needs significant work to compete with Hitachi’s VSP environmentals.
Action Item: Organizations that have IBM 8000 series installed will be very pleased to have the performance and environmentals of the 8800 storage array, and will usually be best served by continuing to use the well established 8000 software, processes, and procedures for true tier 1 applications rather than converting to other vendors. IBM 8000 users should put Easy Tier on a fast track for adoption. However, IBM will need to do more to attract new users to the IBM’s tier 1 offering.