IBM FlashSystems Q1 Announcement - General Availability 19th February

As frustrating as it is technology continues to move forwards at a considerable pace. Less than 2 years on from announcing the V5100/FS5100 we have another round of announcements and new technology that sits in the same space. Interestingly enough there is a purchase option from IBM that can help with this frustration and enable an opex style purchase that also delivers technology upgrades. If you think this is how you want to purchase your next IBM FlashSystem then please get in touch so we can discuss the Flash Momentum offering.

So, on to the announcements. We have three new models introduced to the Entry Enterprise market space FlashSystem 5015, 5035 & 5200, whilst the FlashSystem 7200, 9200 & 9200R continue to support the Midrange Enterprise and High-End Enterprise. Pricing should be available to us on the 9th February with availability scheduled for 19th February, these systems are being built at plant now so we could potentially see the first units in the UK at the beginning of March.

Missing from the graphic above is the FS5100 which is still available but, as the FS5200 is the replacement model for this system, we can expect this to be withdrawn from marketing before the end of the year.

The FS5200 is undoubtedly the star of the show, slimmed down to a 1u footprint with scale up and scale out capability to meet data centre/workload requirements. We can populate the FS5200 with up to 12 drives choosing from Storage Class Memory, Flash Core Modules or Solid State Drives delivering up to 2.3PB of data storage within 1u. The 8 core Skylake CPU is increased from 1.7GHz to 2.2GHz and new PCI-NVMe based inter-canister link messaging (let’s not get into that detail here…) help to deliver a 66% performance improvement over the FS5100.

The FS5200 is designed to

  • Maximize efficiency and save money with innovative features

  • Scale up and Scale out for both capacity & performance

  • Deliver 99.9999% High availability to support mission-critical applications.

  • IBM 2 x Data Reduction Guarantee

  • Storage Insights the AI infused cloud based storage monitoring and management tool.

  • Leverage Spectrum Virtualize software

  • Support Hybrid Multicloud

From a performance point of view what we now see in the FlashSystem portfolio is a linear progression as we step through the models from entry to high end.

Now here is where the announcement gets a little more interesting. The FlashSystem 5200 is going to follow a somewhat similar model to the other entry level offerings when it comes to the software stack. We will no longer need to license all features separately, software licensing will be bundled in the purchase price with the exception of encryption and external virtualisation. This has been promised to drive the cost down by up to 20% when compared to the FS5100 and should result in the ongoing cost being reduced also. We really need to run this through the configurator and find out the costs to confirm if this is the case but there is little reason to doubt this.

Indicative pricing, as shown in the next image makes for compelling reading. 116TB usable for £47,100 gives us a cost per TB of just over £400. The cost per TB is similar to previous configurations but the standout difference is that this is delivered through IBM Flash Core Modules and not industry standard SSD. The performance and longevity of the Flash Core Modules cannot be matched by SSD making this the ‘go to’ FlashSystem in our opinion.

  1. Prices (incl. leasing) mentioned is the IBM recommend price excl. VAT. Actual price might vary based on your final agreement details with the IBM Partner delivering the product
  2. IBM Leasing may not be available in all countries and on all products. Financing offers may change at any time and are subject to credit status, terms and conditions apply.

Whilst we are on the subject of costs, one of the more interesting slides in the announcement pitched the FS5200 with 3 x Flash Core Modules (DRAID1) delivering the same performance but lowering the costs against an FS5030 with a 24 x SAS SSD configuration. This may not suit every workload but certainly warrants further investigation.

It’s not all about the FS5200 though. We have seen the FS5010 and FS5030 receive a refresh as well with the FS5035 coming out of the refresh a little better than the FS5015. Both now support DRAID1, the FS5015 has the minimum memory increased to 32GB but the FS5035 has a processor upgrade which when combined with software improvements can now deliver a maximum performance of 1.2M IOPS. A word of caution around that number, it relates to cache hits so we would advise using the OLTP figures in the image above for a more realistic guide to the performance you can expect. But don’t let that put you off, the FS5030 has long been a favourite here at Chilli, it’s a real workhorse that we run our back office systems and customer monitoring environments from so a refreshed version delivering increased performance capabilities is certainly of interest.

Here’s a recap of the updates: –

In summary the FS5200 is hard to beat as an initial purchase option. Having said that, the FS5035 in its former guise delivered fantastic performance at a great £ per TB. The performance increase it has received will make it even harder to look past for the majority of workloads out there. We think the case for moving to the FS5200 over the FS5035 will be built around the scalability and potentially the requirement to begin using more of the software features available to the units. Compression and deduplication offerings are probably better suited to the FS5200 and above but if they are not necessary in your environment then other options exist.

If you think you may benefit from the newly announced IBM FlashSystems then please get in touch and we can discuss the entry level price points and just exactly what would best suit your environment.

Chilli IT help organisations bridge the IBM skills  gap by providing technical support, professional services and hardware and software upgrades to organisations across the world.

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