SanDisk's InfiniFlash Is a Notable Arrival in the Flash Boxing Ring

2015 is shaping up to be just as busy on the solid-state beat as we expected. This week saw notable moves from two very strong players, which share the fact that neither are traditional storage systems vendors, but both wish to move in that direction since that's where account "stickiness" and higher margins lie. The logic and value of the intended acquisition of Amplidata by WD/HGST is covered by my colleague Scott Sinclair in a blog here. Meantime, SanDisk has come to the game with more chips (pun intended) than table-stakes would demand, and announced its InfiniFlash offering.

So, let's briefly recap the basics: Sometimes one can characterize a vendor's move into a relatively new area (for it) as "throwing its hat into the ring." Well, to borrow that phrase, SanDisk's move might therefore be seen as throwing a whole wardrobe into the ring! InfiniFlash "weighs in" with 512TB of flash in 3U, claiming 1M sub 1ms latency IOPS, and is around $1/GB raw or $2/GB raw+system software. Yup, those numbers are without compression and dedupe—although SanDisk has those and of course that'd drop the effective price much further. This should be very intriguing and attractive to large scale end-users; and the traditional "heavyweights" currently occupying the "incumbency ring" will simply have to take notice...

Why? Because they cannot simply brush off this new contender as simply being just big, inexpensive brawn and no fighting skills. SanDisk has been training for this through this decade—acquiring enterprise hardware credibility from Pliant and Smart, and software chops from FlashSoft, Schooner, and FusionIO (the latter also bringing some enterprise sales ability). Nor can they say that "Big Data Flash" (as SanDisk would like to call this) is not a viable need...everyone is promoting flash and we all know that the only obstacle holding flash back from much faster and broader adoption is cost, whether absolute, effective, or perceived (ESG's recent Next-generation Storage Architecture research, soon to be published, re-confirms this). Indeed, there are other large-scale flash systems waiting in the corners, too... business_boxer

Now, of course SanDisk's InfiniFlash won't immediately win the "flash boxing match." The defending champions aren't about to throw the towel in, and there's a huge difference between stats and an actual fight. That—to switch sports analogies for a moment—is why they play the game! The enterprise storage world is tough and unforgiving—SanDisk will have to prove its integration and support capabilities one function and one user at a time. But it has the luxury of a highly successful consumer business to provide the time and money to allow this to happen. With growing enterprise credibility and attributes, SanDisk adds up to a notable challenger—and one that must be taken seriously because of InfiniFlash. Ironically, however—given the highly impressive raw stats of the hardware—the big story here is actually not so much the product itself, but what it represents in terms of the industry changes afoot as to which vendors do/will/may be contenders to constitute the storage market. The gloves (to finish my analogy) might be on for now, but I can see them coming off real soon!    

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Topics: Storage