Fujitsu Storage Eternus AF250 S2 Review

The vast majority of all-Flash storage solutions are beyond the budgets of SMEs but Fujitsu aims to remedy this woeful situation with its latest Eternus AF250 S2. Not only does it aim to beat the competition soundly on value, but it also claims an impressive six 9s redundancy and offers a wealth of data protection features.

This 2U rack system provides 24 SFF drive bays and comes with dual controllers functioning in active/active mode for transparent failover. The controllers have SAS3 expansion ports allowing one disk shelf to be added over fault-tolerant links to double the drive capacity.

This S2 model sees modest improvements over its predecessor with the most notable addition being support for 32Gbps FC data ports. Each controller has dual expansion bays and along with the new 32Gbps FC option, Fujitsu also offers dual-port 8/16Gbps FC or 10GbE iSCSI modules.

The new controllers use 6-core 2.2GHz Ivy Bridge Xeons and total system cache memory is 64GB of DDR3 split equally across them. The controllers also now incorporate a Ni-MH battery plus NVRAM to protect their cache contents in the event of a power failure.

Swift deployment

The array can be managed via its local web GUI which provides options to create RAID Groups and volumes

After connecting a PC directly to the primary controller’s remote access network port, we used the quick start wizard to configure basic details. These included the system hostname, administration security and the IP address of the maintenance port which is used for general web management access and for the SF Express software.

The web GUI remains the same so we dived straight in and started configuring RAID Groups (RGs). The review system was supplied with six 1.92TB HGST SS200 SSDs which we used to create a high-performance RAID10 array – other RG options include stripes, mirrors, RAID5 and RAID6.

Thin provisioned volumes (TPVs) require a dedicated storage pool and as volume space gets used, the appliance dynamically assigns new blocks to it from the pool. Attention and warning capacity thresholds are automatically applied to a pool and when they are reached, the appliance will send out an alert.

Inline deduplication and compression are included but can only be applied to TPVs. Another valuable feature is integral data encryption as you can request that this is carried by the controller’s firmware or use SEDs (self-encrypting drives)

Data protection features

The SF Express dashboard provides a customisable overview of the array’s status

Fujitsu’s SF Express software handles volume cloning, snapshots and replication and is designed to manage multiple arrays from a central host. We installed it on a separate Windows Server 2012 R2 system and assigned the array to it without any problems.

It’s important to set up SNMP correctly on the array as SF Express uses this for all management. You create an SNMP user on the array assigned with the ‘Software’ role and on the SF Express host, dedicated admin groups with management and monitoring privileges must also be created.

Data protection features offered by the Storage Cruiser upgrade are extensive as it enables data tiering, automated QoS (Quality of Service) and enhanced performance monitoring. This makes the array very versatile as you can enable QoS on a single flash tier for high performance apps while TPVs with deduplication and compression are used where storage savings are a higher priority.

Other features include OPC (one point copy) which creates a one-off clone of a source volume to a local destination volume while QuickOPC clones a volume and then updates it incrementally. There are plenty of other options as EC (equivalent copy) mirrors one volume to another on the same array in real-time while the REC (remote EC) performs this to a remote array for disaster recovery.

SnapOPC+ (one point copy plus) uses dedicated SDVs (snap data volumes) to take copy-on-write snapshots of selected source volumes and can be used as temporary staging areas for offloading backups. You can also create an SDV pool so if any SDV runs out of space it can take some from the pool until you increase the SDV’s size.

IP SAN performance

All snapshot, cloning and replication operations are managed by the SF Express host system

The review unit was supplied with four 10GbE SFP+ iSCSI ports. For performance testing, we used two Xeon E5-2600 v4 Windows servers fitted with Emulex dual-port 10GbE HBAs and connected to the array over dual-port MPIO links.

With Iometer running on one server logged on to a 500GB target, we found performance a mixed bag with it reporting high sequential read speeds of 18.1Gbits/sec but only 9Gbits/sec for write rates. However, we found these figures remained the same for random operations while 4KB Iometer block sizes returned good I/O read and write rates of 71,000 IOPS and 31,500 IOPS.

With the second server logged onto to its own target over an MPIO link, we recorded cumulative read and write rates of 34.7Gbits/sec and 15.1Gbits/sec which also held steady for random operations. Read and write I/O throughput across both servers also ramped up to 104,000 IOPS and 63,500 IOPS.

Fujitsu advised us that it was seeing read and write throughputs of 96,000 IOPS and 57,000 IOPS for volumes with deduplication and compression enabled so our figures for basic volumes bear these out. Latency was also impressively low with both servers recording read and write averages of 0.6ms and 1.3ms.

 Conclusion

Fujitsu continues to push the price of all-Flash arrays down to a more palatable level and current reseller promotions are offering substantial discounts on the list price. This updated model only offers a modest improvement on hardware features and overall IP SAN performance is a mixed bag but the array can’t be faulted for its high IOPS and low latency.

Build quality is excellent and the system comes as standard with full hardware redundancy across the controllers and power supplies. The SF Express software bundle also offers a wealth of data protection features making the Eternus AF250 S2 a great choice for serving up mission-critical data.

8.3 Total Score

Build quality is excellent and the system comes as standard with full hardware redundancy across the controllers and power supplies. The SF Express software bundle also offers a wealth of data protection features making the Eternus AF250 S2 a great choice for serving up mission-critical data.

Performance
7
Features
9
Build quality
9.5
Usability
7
Value
9
PROS
  • Very low latency
  • High IOPS
  • End-to-end redundancy
  • Top data protection features
  • Excellent value
CONS
  • IP SAN write rates could be better
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