July 3, 2017
With the price per gigabyte of flash storage plummeting further and further each year, the time has come to start taking the technology seriously. Estimates differ on when the all flash storage market will overtake hard disk drives (HDDs) as the storage of choice for businesses, but the earliest projections list it as soon as this year, 2017.
With that in mind, IT directors should look into flash at their next refresh cycle. To do that effectively, you need to understand how these two storage platforms differ and how flash has managed to reach a competitive cost with disk storage.
The New Rules of the Flash Storage Market
Deduplication and Compression Are Crucial
The longstanding dynamic between flash and disk is that flash is faster, but disk is cheaper per gigabyte. To overcome this divide, the flash storage market began utilizing data deduplication, compression, and cloning techniques to enable these arrays to effectively store more data in the same space. Refining these technologies greatly contributed to lowering the overall price of the solution.
Data compression, deduplication, and cloning techniques have been available for some time, but in a disk storage array, it had a negative impact on latency. Companies for this reason relegated these techniques exclusively for archival, database, and non-critical data. Flash on the other hand is unaffected by these processes. When researching your flash solutions, take note of this compression ratio as it could have a significant impact on overall cost.
The Controller Is King
In disk storage, capacity and performance are linked to a certain degree. As you scale your disk storage solution, the goal is to buy more shelves and then buy more shelves after that. In a flash deployment, however, your controller is going to be your performance bottleneck. Disk storage has a ceiling on its performance speed, because it relies on a mechanical arm to physically locate data on a disk. Flash has no such hindrances, so the ceiling on speed is determined by the computing power of the controller.
Commodity Hardware Is Common
A common practice in the flash storage market is to sell the flash array on commodity SSD hardware. The value then comes from the software and the controller, which ultimately determines the overall performance of the array. Like deduplication and compression, this is another strategy to keep the cost of flash down without compromising the overall value of the solution.
Assigned to Mission Critical Workloads for Now
When flash overtakes disk storage in the market completely, it won’t occur in one fell swoop. Many companies will choose to retain a portion of the disk storage environment to serve as an archive. During the transition and near future, this will prove to be a valuable role for disk. Disk will allow an environment to purchase large capacities, and an archival role will ensure that the slow speeds do not impact crucial business processes. Then, flash storage would be used for all mission-critical workloads to boost performance, lower latency, and help the business reach its goals.
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