Infinidat adds customer value with SSA Express and improved SSA capacity

Infinidat adds customer value with SSA Express and improved SSA capacity

Chris Evans All-Flash Storage, Data Practice: Data Storage, Enterprise, Infinidat, Storage, Storage Hardware

Infinidat has announced enhancements to its InfiniBox platform, introducing SSA Express and new, higher-capacity SSA solutions.  We look at the details of the announcements and how they benefit customers.


InfiniBox, the Infinidat storage platform, uses three tiers of memory and storage to persist data and cache I/O requests.  Through the use of DRAM, NAND flash and hard drives, an InfiniBox system can deliver 90-99% of I/O read requests from system memory.  This capability is achieved through advanced software called the Neural Cache.  The ability to use cheaper HDD is one aspect of the InfiniBox technology that addresses the $/GB question that always occurs with all-flash systems. 

Although InfiniBox achieves arguably higher DRAM hit rates than most enterprise arrays, some I/O must be retrieved from disk, resulting in a long tail of slower I/O.  In 2021, Infinidat introduced the SSA, using just two tiers (DRAM and NAND), ensuring that any I/O not in DRAM would be served at SSD speed.  This solution addresses the issue of latency-sensitive applications. 

SSA (and the uprated SSA II) is a separate hardware appliance, requiring customers to purchase additional hardware on which latency-sensitive applications are deployed.  As any storage administrator will be aware, multiple hardware platforms introduce more operational complexity, including the risk of fragmentation and wasted resources. 

SSA Express

Infinidat has addressed the issue of platform sprawl with a new feature called SSA Express.  This solution is a software update to the InfiniBox “classic” three-tier platform that effectively implements a virtual SSA within the InfiniBox.  In practice, the SSA Express feature implements pinned volumes where all of the persistent data for a volume resides on SSD and isn’t cascaded down to the HDD tier. 

The benefits to the customer of creating a virtual flash array within a hybrid array are through cost savings, operational savings, and choice. 

  • In deployment scenarios where SSA isn’t available, customers can evaluate the benefits of moving applications to an all-flash solution without purchasing and installing hardware.  This makes it much easier to answer the “what if” question without deploying infrastructure, configuring new hardware, and plumbing it into the existing ecosystem.
  • SSA Express can be used in locations where a fully loaded SSA might be overkill.  There are many scenarios where only a few tens of terabytes of all-flash capacity are sufficient.  Again, SSA enables this without additional cabling and rack space, plus the additional power/cooling costs. 

There’s also no reason why Infinidat couldn’t make the SSA Express feature more dynamic, by enabling pinning on existing volumes, for instance to deliver higher performance to applications at busy times.

Of course, there’s no free lunch, so using some SSD capacity for pinned volumes must be validated against existing system utilisation.  For that reason, SSA Express only supports up to 60TB of capacity in systems with 1.92TB SSDs or 320TB with 7.68TB drives.  Older models of InfiniBox may need an SSD expansion pack (which is chargeable).  However, Infinidat believes that 95% of the appliances in the field will work without expansion.  New systems get the benefit of validation at the time the system is commissioned, so can pre-configured with SSA Express in mind. 

SSA II Updates

In addition to SSA Express, Infinidat has announced a new higher-capacity SSA II, the F4316T.  This model delivers twice the capacity of the F4308T (by using 16TB drives).  At the same time, the F4304T is being discontinued.  At the top end, the F4316T will support 2,654TB of usable capacity and 6,635TB of effective capacity once data reduction techniques are applied.

The discontinuance of the F4304T is mitigated with a new scale-up consumption model that doesn’t require the SSA to be deployed fully configured.  Customers can now choose to deploy either the F4308T or F4316T at 60%, 80% or 100% capacity, with the partially filled systems incrementing in 20% steps.  So, a 60% populated F4308T is similar in capacity to the F4304T but with room to grow.

We discuss the SSA Express and SSA II updates on this podcast (embedded) with Infinidat CMO, Eric Herzog.

The Architect’s View®

Volume pinning isn’t a new concept but has been implemented in many storage platforms over the years.  Early systems simply kept all data in DRAM and on disk at the same time, delivering fast I/O at the detriment of the system cache that would usually be shared by all volumes in a system.  When multi-tiered storage was introduced in the late 2000s with the first enterprise flash drives, automatic tiering capabilities could redistribute data, but always lagged behind the real-time performance needs of an application.

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SSA Express is a valuable free option for customers of Infinidat that currently haven’t made the leap to all-flash or need all-flash capability in a limited capacity.  The increase in top-end capacity for the SSA II also delivers more customer flexibility by removing the requirement to deploy fully populated arrays.  The migration towards 16TB drives was inevitable (and more will be needed in the future), so deprecating the 4TB makes sense, in line with part-population.

The new Infinidat announcements aren’t radical, but they are important for customers.  At a time when every business needs to be cost-conscious, providing free capabilities and reducing the cost of ownership (space/power/cooling) will be welcomed. 

From a business perspective, Infinidat needs to increase the TAM (total available market) for its products.  These announcements just made the adoption process easier.   

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