What does Apple tell us about hybrid storage for the enterprise?
As many of you, I read with interest this week that as Apple announced their new IPAD Mini, they also announced that they would be shipping new Fusion drives in their MACs. What is the Fusion drive? As described by Phil Schiller of Apple, it is a combination of flash and spinning HDD drive to speed performance. As you look under the covers of the announcement, more emerges, because what Apple has done is add quite a lot of flash to the drive,120GB in fact. This amounts to between 3 and 10% of the capacity of the HDD.
In a recent blog post, Stephen Foskett postulates that this is in fact a tiering rather than a caching mechanism, where the applications are actually moved to the faster tier when needed with no user interaction necessary. This is clearly a technical distinction, but in reality, to a customer, it does not matter. What they get is faster performance for the applications that matter to them at a specific point in time. Good news.
What is interesting is the philosophy:
• Apple is introducing this flash component as part of a combination “drive.”
• Apple is building the software technology into OS Mountain Lion, so the user does not have to do anything to get the benefit.
• Apple is providing enough flash to make it capable of holding significant data that could speed up the operating system and multiple applications.
What Apple is not doing is:
• They do not make the flash an option.
• They do not make the user manage the performance with manual or policy-based movement.
• They do not require the customer to pay additional software licensing to use it.
• They are providing enough flash to be useful upfront.
Why am I writing about this on the Starboard board? As you may know already if you are on this site, we also built a hybrid storage solution, but, in our case it is for enterprise storage and all that it entails.
• Starboard OS is new and groundbreaking Storage Operating System.
• Flash/SSD is built in to every system.
• There is no software licensing cost for using SSD or any of the other software.
• There is no need for the user to manage Policy. Data is automatically accelerated on demand. Whose demand would that be? The applications’ demand, based on the end-users’ access.
It looks like Apple’s philosophy is the same as ours here at Starboard, and the antithesis of the traditional storage vendors, who are attempting to add SSDs to aging architectures or require policy-based management for data movement. It is also good news for the adoption of hybrid storage technology in the enterprise, because Apple will make the technology mainstream for consumers, and we all know the effect consumerization is having on the enterprise.