While technology constantly evolves, all areas of technology don’t move forward at the same pace. Over the past three decades, we witnessed almost unbelievable increases in CPU performance and memory densities. Storage has been a different case, however. Although the storage industry has been able to deliver huge increases in disk drive capacity, it has not been able to provide an equivalent increase in disk drive performance.
Flash storage technology (based on non-volatile NAND chips) has been around for almost three decades and is now rapidly beginning to fill this storage performance gap, as the cost of the technology becomes more affordable. According to a prediction by IDC, from 2012 to the end of 2016, all-flash arrays (AFA) will see a compound annual growth rate of 58.5%. While this number applies to commercial enterprise spending, there’s no reason that federal agencies should be left behind.
The benefits of flash are significant – among them: dramatically increased read and write speeds, and significantly lower access times. Flash drives contain no moving parts; a feature that can lead to increased reliability, a lower environmental impact and potentially a decreased total cost of ownership.
The benefits of flash are substantial. I can say with certainty that if you haven’t been looking at a flash solution today, you soon will be.
Flash is terrific, however, there are some hazards that you might want to consider before settling on a vendor. If your system hasn’t been specifically flash-optimized, you’re trading these benefits for some major drawbacks, like a loss in reliability, longevity and operational simplicity. The flash storage market is still sorting itself out. There is an abundance of young, innovative startup players in the market today. Their systems aren’t always agnostic, and more importantly, those companies and products may not have staying power. Based on these market realities, choosing an AFA vendor becomes a critical decision for Federal agencies concerned about operational stability and keeping velocity of their mission.
Competition is a great thing as it generates innovation. Unfortunately startups with great ideas come quickly and a vast majority of them disappear, or are purchased through IPOs, just as quickly. Even if the technology being offered is well designed, lack of support can be an issue. A new vendor may claim amazing features that may not be delivered until “the next version of the firmware,” if they are delivered at all. And those features that are delivered may have subtle flaws that can be exceptionally difficult to debug. Can you afford to trust your enterprise data to a small company that might not have the resources available to resolve these issues and, if necessary, recover your data? Best to check first.
I mentioned features. Features are how vendors differentiate their products, so it’s important to verify that the features you’re interested in are both available and function as promised. For example, a vendor may claim that their compression algorithm delivers 9:1 data compression, allowing their flash solution to be price competitive with a solution utilizing traditional spinning disks. The question that needs to be asked is how that compression algorithm affects the array’s read/write performance. If flash performance is cut in half by using compression, is that particular array the bargain you had hoped it would be? The bottom line is – test the features you know you need BEFORE you purchase.
Another issue is the rate at which products can change. Smaller companies have the ability to design and bring to market new products rapidly. Unfortunately this can affect support for their current product offerings. For an enterprise or government agency, an investment in a data storage and management solution is an investment that needs to continue paying off years after the original purchase. That means, choosing a vendor with the history of success and reliability that would be able to support your mission long after the original purchase had been made.
Flash promises speed and performance, but can systems sustain that performance over time and when workloads increase? Speed is a significant determinate of performance and in a flash array, speed depends on shortest, most efficient path for data to traverse as it flows between flash device holding the data and the port delivering data to the server. Some traditional storage vendors have simply added flash storage to their existing arrays. Other storage vendors go to significant lengths to ensure that all array bottlenecks affecting flash performance are eliminated so that maximum data transfer rates can be achieved with minimal latencies.
Hitachi’s VSP F Series is 10 times faster than competitive technologies and offers both the capacity and sustained performance, without having to sacrifice either one.
The choice of the wrong flash point solution can add unnecessary complexity and extra concerns for IT departments, costing time and money. New technology investments should make your life easier, not harder. A flash solution combined with a consolidated management tool capable of automating repetitive task while virtualizing and managing systems from multiple vendors can remove this complexity, reducing the load on overburdened IT staff.
Hitachi VSP F Series has automated, application-specific provisioning with a resource-aware centralized infrastructure control for ease of management.
Find out more information about Hitachi Flash Solutions, like the VSP F Series.