Flash Storage for All
I recently attended the Next Generation Storage Symposium in San Jose, California, and thought I would provide a few perspectives on the storage industry that occurred to me during the event.
Firstly, the future of storage innovation is bright. Emerging tech companies such as Starboard Storage Systems are bringing a new level of innovation to storage that is lacking in the offerings from the traditional suppliers.
A lot of the conversation was on the role of solid state or flash in next-generation storage and it will be no surprise to anyone that everybody thought it was a key driver of disruptive change that enabled more performance, but also brought more simplicity to storage implementation and management.
Flash implementation options were then discussed. Should you go all flash, or should you choose hybrid storage architectures? This, of course, depends. Both have their place and it depends on the market you are targeting. “All-flash” systems target high IOPS. For applications such as financial trading where a microsecond difference in processing makes a difference, they will find a market. They also push data reduction technologies to try and target a reasonable $/GB but this is something to be wary of. What are your applications? Can the data be effectively compressed? How much duplicate data do you have? Most of their competitive compares were vs. traditional storage arrays using 15K drives that do not leverage SSD well and do not have effective space management technologies. It is a fair compare, but newer hybrid arrays are a different animal.
A hybrid storage system takes advantage of solid state, but also enables extremely efficient capacity management through the addition of HDD drives behind the SSD drives. Data at rest is stored on HDD and active data is written to and read from SSD. The customer does not have to manage the data placement. It is done in real time and adapts to the unpredictable nature of the customer’s business. Performance and capacity are virtualized across all of your applications.
HDD drives are not going away anytime soon. What is changing is the need for those drives to push performance envelopes. With an SSD front end, customers can take advantage of nearline 7200RPM SAS drives in a new way. 15K drives become less relevant. Here is why:
- A 3TB 7200 RPM SAS drive is 5 times the capacity of a 600GB 15K SAS drive for effectively the same price.
- A 15K drive performs about twice as fast as a 7200RPM drive.
- The price performance of a 7200RPM drive is therefore 2.5 times better than a 15K drive and the $/GB price is five times lower.
- Solid state drives can deliver orders of magnitude more performance than HDD, but are more than an order of magnitude more expensive for capacity.
In this context, it is easy to see that if you can efficiently deliver a small amount of SSD in front of lower cost HDD, and drive hit rates up on SSD you can effectively use each technology for best purpose.
Overall, the day was very informative, and you can see the panel discussion that I participated on discussing storage caching
At the end though, it is hard to escape the conclusion that hybrid storage systems are truly the architecture that is driving access to flash storage for all.