Flash Shipment Bragging Rights (Updated)

Flash Shipment Bragging Rights (Updated)

Chris EvansAll-Flash Storage

There’s a lot of “willy waving” comments being thrown around at the moment regarding flash storage shipments.  The news from one vendor is barely out before another is claiming they have already exceeded those figures.  So what are the claims, can we assume any facts and of course does any of it matter?

I’ve done a little research to try and get to the bottom of some of the numbers.  Here’s what I’ve found publicly available.

  • HDS claims to have shipped 19.5PB of flash in the last quarter, with 17PB of that being their HAF (Hitachi Accelerated Flash) technology.  HDS chose the route of using the HAF rather than build an array from scratch, so these shipments are as close as they can get to all-flash array figures.
  • EMC claimed 17PB of flash shipped in the last quarter (1Q2014) with “dozens” (e.g 24) of new XtremIO customers.  At the keynote session at EMC World this week, David Goulden claimed EMC had shipped 72PB of flash storage over the past 12 months.  However Goulden also stated that EMC are shipping an exabyte *each month* which translates to 3000PB over a quarter.  With a mere 17PB of flash included in this figure, flash storage only accounts for around 0.5% of all storage shipments, which is less than typically shipped with a new VMAX or VNX configuration.
  • Pure Storage claims to have shipped 1000 arrays as of year end 2013, achieved 700% growth and have more than 10 customers with more than a petabyte of flash.  Assuming an average 15TB per array, that translates to 15PB shipped in total.  Again making assumptions of say $10/GB price to the customer, Pure may have revenues of around $150m so far.  With only 100 arrays shipped in May 2012, 900 have since been shipped in 2 years, for an average of well over 100 per quarter and with growth rate figures of 700% in the last 12 months, significantly more than that in the last quarter.
  • Violin Memory released full year figures in March this year.  Full year revenue was $107.7m with around 80% of that coming from product sales and the rest from services.  From that $88m of product, if we assume a $15/GB price then that translates to around 5.8PB of storage shipped.
  • NetApp:  I’ve not been able to find any hard numbers on recent NetApp flash sales.
  • HP: I’ve not been able to find any recent numbers for HP flash sales.
  • IBM: Garter estimated IBM’s flash revenues in Q4FY2013 as $37m (via The Register).  Using the same $15/GB metric, this could translate to shipments of 2.4PB. – Update: IBM declared they had shipped 27PB of flash (storage & server) in one quarter and 82PB in the last 12 months.  This information was released by Michael Kuhn on The Cube at IBM Edge 2014 – Michael Kuhn – IBM Edge 2014 – theCUBE 
  • Nimbus Data Systems recently claimed 500 units shipped, however no actual capacity figures were quoted.
  • Solidfire recently claimed at their Analysts’ Day 700% revenue growth in 2013, more than 7 customers (i.e. 8) with greater than $1m spend with hundreds of systems in the field.

What can we determine from these numbers?  In terms of raw flash shipped, Hitachi IBM seems to be the leader followed by Hitachi.  EMC have shipped similar numbers to Hitachi, but based on the knowledge that most (if not all) VMAX/VNX deployments ship these days with perhaps 1-5% flash, then the XtremIO revenue must be very small indeed.  IBM appears to rate next, followed by Followers are Pure/Violin and then the remainder of the pack.  The only notable lack of figures come from NetApp and HP.  I’m hoping someone can point me in the right direction here.

One other point of note; vendor marketing pitches seem to be deliberately conflating the two figures of flash shipped and leadership in all-flash arrays. As the market has matured, I think the distinction of an all-flash array is no longer tenable and creating an “all flash” product category is pointless.

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The Architect’s View™

The numbers around flash shipments are hardly transparent, with claims and counter-claims becoming the norm.  In reality the use of flash in the enterprise is about applicability to workloads and applications, not simply whether you can boast to have sold the most.

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