Introducing the IBM FlashSystem 9100 – with NVMe Flash-Core-Modules (FCM)


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Today we have announced the next generation FlashSystem product built with Spectrum Virtualize capabilities at its heart. What’s new and exciting about this, well it brings together the best of IBM FlashSystems, Spectrum Virtualize and adds the new dual ported (very important) NVMe Flash drives, both OEM manufacturers and IBM’s patents FlashSystem Micro Latency Modules, with the debut of new FCM’s – Flash Core Modules in an NVMe form factor and interface, complete with the same in-built no performance impact compression hardware as the current FlashSystem 900 solution.

The storage development team in Hursley started work on the design of a new generation box back over 3 years ago when I was still based in the UK. The idea was to build a low rack density, and high performance control enclosure that could take NVMe Flash drives, both in terms of NAND Flash based, and look to the future of SCM – Storage Class Memory technologies, such as 3D Xpoint, Z-SSD and whatever else will come along. What has been announced today is the result of over 3 years of development to produce just such a system, combing the 35+ years of high performance storage IP from what was Texas Memory Systems, with the almost 30 years of IP from Spectrum Virtualize team to produce an industry leading storage system for tomorrow. Now I know that all sounds very marketing, but the truth is this box will not only be one of the the highest capacity and performance density in the industry, but also provide for industry leading features and functions with the Virtualize capabilities, including DRAID. Now that the Flash modules are even larger in capacity than NL-SAS drives, features like DRAID-6 are equally important with Flash and HDD. Similariiy leveraging the migration, data reduction, snapshot, replication  (DR) and HA capabilities all built into the box.

With the new FlashSystem 9100 we have introduced two models, ‘low and high’ if you like, so as to not only cater for the high demands of todays data driven applications, but to bring NVMe capability to a lower price point. All that said, I’ve not seen the final pricing, but this is aimed to be one of the most cost effective next generation solutions available on the market today.

The capabilities here are quite staggering. The system starts in just 2U, and in that 2U you can have 24x NVMe FCMs with 19.2TB each. Giving a raw capacity of 460.8TB. After DRAID-6 and spare, thats 383TB USABLE. Oh, and don’t forget, if you are using the FCMs you get that hardware compression (for no performance penalty) which means with a sight unseen guarantee of 2:1, thats  almost 800TB usable effective capacity in 2U. However, it doesn’t end there, add in de-duplication to the volumes you provision and we are talking at least 1PB in 2U for almost all workload types, with some seeing even more! Even if you are not using the FCM themselves, standard NVMe Flash drives can be compressed using the inbuilt hardware compression assist engines in each of the control canisters. *

Thats probably more than enough capacity for most people, but should you need more capacity, and of course performance, scale that up to the full 8U system size and you get 4x, so 4PB in 8U at least. Need even more, then add in some SAS expansion enclosures with Tier1 Flash drives and the system can address up to 32PB in total, with supported combinations of 2U 24 drive and 5U 92 drive enclosures.

So thats the features and capacity covered, lets not forget out the performance. As I always say ‘everyone can do 1 million IOPs these days’ its become the norm, and a single 2U system here will see around 2.5 Million IOPs, scaling to 10 million IOPs in its 8U guise. Should be more than enough for everyone, especially with latencies as low as 100us.

Back in February we issued a statement of direction with respect to our hardware readiness for NVMe over Fabrics. The FlashSystem 9100 is no different, the 16Gbit Fibre Channel and 25Gbit Ethernet hardware available for host interfaces from the 9100 are also NVMe-oF ready. A software release in the future will unlock that potential, by which time hopefully the OS stacks will have stabilised too! **

So here’s some facts and figures about the two different models, as you an see the main different is in the CPU grunt of the two.

 FlashSystem 9110FlashSystem 9150
CPU Per Canister2x 8 Core2x 14 Core
Cores Per 2U System32 Core56 Core
Cores Per 8U System128 Core224 Core
Cache Per 2U System128GB to 1.5TB
Cache Per 8U System512GB to 6.0TB
Flash boot M2 DriveSingleMirrored pair
Inbuilt Compression assist hardware *Yes (1 per canister) 40GbitYes (1 per canister) 100Gbit
Inbuilt Host Interface ports4x 10Gbit Ethernet
Interface slots3x 16 lane PCIe Gen3
Interface card options4port 16Gbit Fibre Channel **
 2port 25Gbit Ethernet (iWarp or RoCEv2) **
 4port 12Gbit SAS (for Tier1 SAS Flash expansion enclosure attachment)
FCM NVMe4.8TB,  9.6TB,  19.2TB
SSD NVMe1.92TB,  3.84TB,  7.68TB,  15.36TB


The FlashSystem 9100 comes, as all IBM block storage systems do, with the award winning IBM Storage Insights capabilities. This IBM Cloud based portal provides an AI driven storage analytics, storage resource management and support interface for all IBM storage customers. Enabling cognitive support, through proactive measures as well as simplified debug capabilities should you experience any issues or performance concerns. Providing a centralised dashboard for all your IBM storage that can be accessed from anywhere – with no local infrastructure – other than a simple lightweight VM capable data collector interface. For more information, and details on how to sign up for existing clients, see the Insight web pages.

Combined with the software features built into Spectrum Virtualize, and IBM’s Software Defined Multi Cloud portfolio including Spectrum Access, IBM Cloud Private and Spectrum Connect, the FlashSystem 9100 can be the heart of your multi-cloud environment, both hybrid, on premise and public.

Watch out for the various local launch events planned over the coming weeks and months, for those locally here in Australia, ensure you sign up to the Sydney Technical University, we will have a demo FlashSystem 9100 available to look over, as well as hopefully some exciting technology demos’s associated with the 9100 – and of course the launch event is planned for the last night of the TechU – so be sure to sign up for that also where we will have a panel of experts with IT News providing the questions to the panel (which I’m part of) – as well as those of you in Singapore, where I will be co-presenting at the launch event in Singapore with Red Bull Racing, and their use of IBM Spectrum products that help them to produce one of the fastest cars in the world. Oh and a small matter of the Singapore F1 Grand Prix too …

For more information on the FlashSystem 9100, see the product pages, or contact you IBM partner/account team who will be happy to take you through the details.

Finally here are a couple of my good friends talking about the new FlashSystem 9100 – Evelyn is the platform architect in the Hursley lab, and Andy is our Flash Fellow 🙂 Enjoy.

[Edited 11th July – typo’s – added capabilities of the two different inbuilt compression assist engines, corrected that the 10Gbit internal – although iWarp capable, may not get iWarp support]

2 responses to “Introducing the IBM FlashSystem 9100 – with NVMe Flash-Core-Modules (FCM)”

  1. […] been great to see all the interest over the last week on the new FlashSystem 9100 products announced on July 10th. Interesting too on the register with the battlecard information, […]


  2. […] FCM’s are much more than just your average Flash drive. Check out my post from 2018 when we first introduced FCMs for some of the basic […]


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