Is Flash For Me?
It’s one of the most disruptive technologies to hit the storage industry in a long time, it has caught the big enterprise vendors out, it has created a whole group of new and innovative storage businesses, yes, flash based disk is greatly changing the way we look at data storage. So here we take a look at how it compares with other storage solutions and why you should consider it for your business...
Why Should I care?
Flash based storage has made huge changes in the way we look at our storage solutions, it’s fast, very fast, and for most enterprise workloads, it is always more than fast enough. This reduces one of the big headaches of storage design, is my solution going to be 'fast enough to deliver all I need?’ and if that extra speed allows you to deliver your services quicker and gain an edge over your competition, then why wouldn't you?
But I’m not really worried about performance
That’s OK, it’s not just fast, it’s very efficient - because there are no mechanical parts spinning around, the cost of running flash can be significantly lower than your current environment. So even if you don’t want just fast, then the potential to greatly reduce running costs is enough of a reason in itself.
Isn’t flash still expensive?
There is no doubt that a couple of years ago if you compared a flash drive to a spinning 10K SAS drive, the answer would of been yes, but today the cost of flash has dropped significantly, on a per Gb cost a flash drive and a 10K SSD drive is pretty much the same … however…
Comparing just the raw capacity of a disk does not tell the whole story. We are all used to storage efficiency in our storage arrays, however the incredibly quick response times of flash means we can add even more efficiencies, inline compression, inline deduplication and data compaction for example, greatly lowering the data footprint in our storage array.
With that in mind when we size a flash array, we can design them in such a way as to take advatage of thier effective capacity not just their raw disk space. For example, let's conservatively assume we will always get a 2:1 capacity improvement – so a £500 SAS disk would have an SSD Drive equivalent that cost perhaps £800 for the same capacity – once we look at our effective capacity (twice that of our SAS disk) then our SSD drive is now 20% cheaper than it's SAS equivalent.
Aren't Flash Drives Small?
Faster, more efficient running costs, better capacity utilisation, all sounds great, but aren’t flash drives quite small?
18 months ago that was true as we looked at 400Gb and 800Gb SSD’s, however SSD technology is moving so fast, today we are now seeing support for 16TB SSD drives, twice the size of the commonly available SATA drives.
The physical limitations of spinning disk are now at a point where we are struggling to get much bigger, 10TB SATA is potentially the limit for spinning media, in the next 24 or so months we will see 128TB SSD drives, 12 times the size of the biggest SATA drives.
Are people actually using flash?
The reality is flash is no longer the preserve of niche projects and big companies. Today it is the norm for delivering all types of workloads, in reality is it now the standard media for our data storage and we expect to see the phasing out of SAS drives in the near term, although very big SATA drives may still have a place as a repository for archive and long term retention.
There must be a catch, right?
Potentially yes, the storage market is full of flash storage vendors, however maybe we don’t want all flash today, maybe we just want some flash for our key databases or virtual environment, in the future yes, everything will sit on flash, but what I don’t want it just a silo of storage for flash and then something completely different to deliver my disk.
So it’s critical that any flash decisions you make allows you to build a storage fabric that allows you to integrate flash, alongside disk media of today and how about media of tomorrow, we mentioned 15Tb drives – not all vendors can support them as their technology limits it, it’s important in all the flash excitement, that we don’t forget, that flash is just storage media, there is no such thing as the flash storage market ultimately, it’s just storage, make sure you design a solution that integrates all of your storage needs.
So who should I look at?
Well as always that is a personal choice and it’s of course never a simple decision, it will come down to who best fits your requirements, technically and commercially.
However, based on our experience in the market, NetApp is our flash storage vendor of choice, delivering high speed, highly efficient flash arrays across a portfolio of solutions, from the cheap and extremely fast E-Series, to the Webscale capabilities of Solidfire to of course the flagship capabilities of ONTAP.
To find out more about how Gardner Systems can help you make the flash storage decision that is right for you then