Is Tier 0 storage already dead?

A pile of discarded storage hardware

Posted on Thursday, March 30, 2017

When EMC bought high performance flash storage specialist for $1 billion in 2014, the industry (rightly) expected to see an explosion in related technologies. Three years later and the newly merged Dell EMC corporation has confirmed that they are dropping the DSSD D5 array from their product line-up.

Not hugely popular

Despite the incredibly impressive performance of the DSSD D5 rack-scale flash array – 10 million IOPS, 100 microsecond latency, 100GB/sec bandwidth – The Register estimates that less than a dozen units were sold, generating just $6 million in revenue. This is not a reflection on the technology itself (which is clearly very capable), but more likely a change in attitudes towards custom hardware.

The market for the DSSD approach to Tier 0 storage is also extremely small – hence the relatively low volume of sales.

A change in market focus

The need to add capacity quickly and retain complete control of the data center – including hardware refresh cycles – has changed the way CTOs buy storage. It is increasingly common to use heterogeneous environments as companies loosen the grip of OEMs on their data centers.

Obviously custom hardware – like DSSD – runs against this desire. Custom Tier 0 arrays are also at odds with the increased focus on virtualization using software defined storage (SDS). Using SDS businesses can deploy low cost commodity hardware as a pool of storage to be used however they see fit. They can further reduce costs by repurposing redundant post-warranty arrays to boost overall capacity.

SDS is also much better suited to the modern heterogeneous environment, allowing arrays from different storage OEMs to co-exist seamlessly. The underlying infrastructure may not be able to provide DSSD levels of performance, but the use of software-managed data access SLAs allows applications to be aligned automatically against performance. As the disappointing sales of DSSD show, not all data requires the same level of performance.

Gone but not forgotten

The disappearance of the DSSD product line will affect almost no one. However the technologies purchase by Dell EMC are bound to make an appearance in the rest of their product line at some point in the future – hopefully with less reliance on custom hardware principles.

Next steps

To learn more about preparing your post-warranty corporate storage for a virtualized future using SDS, please give us a call.

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