The Huge Advantages of Flash Storage

Flash storage has been cropping up more and more lately as the number of organizations adopting it keeps increasing. In fact, we recently announced our partnership with Pure Storage in October in which we’re offering a bundled test data management software solution built off of Pure’s flash storage.

Back in 2014, we noted the increased interest from customers and that some were beginning a gradual transition. One customer had started an IT transformation combining the speed and efficiency of flash storage with the copy data reduction capabilities of Actifio (More Flash from Flash). Theirs was a big Software as a Service (SaaS) operation moving away from lots of spinning disks by starting with copy data reductions. As they reduced the number of data copies, the smaller capacity requirements made flash look more cost effective. It occupied less data center floor space while reducing consumption of energy for power and cooling. So with enough justifications to convince the CFO, they made the move and the difference the saw in on-line performance made a huge impact.

Other customers were telling us that one of the biggest advantages they got from Flash was time (Flash Time). Of course, performance was orders of magnitude faster, with latency dropping to sub-milliseconds. For some, transaction processing times decreased as much as 80 percent. Handling transactions faster means more business gets done in less time. And, since Flash is easier to manage, operating overhead is reduced, there are fewer fire drills – more time benefits.

In these earlier customer conversations, the cost of flash was always a challenge. However, the reduction in complexity, the increase in speed, and the higher reliability still made for compelling reasons to move ahead, at least incrementally (Getting to Flash Faster). Since that time, the annual increases in average data growth have continued at 50-60 percent. However, because these customers are also using Actifio to control copy data, their increases are marginal. In fact, depending upon where they are in the implementation process, their total capacity may be going down. Still, some data had to move from the old platforms to the new and that raised the specter of data migration agony. That was until their realization that Actifio provided the means for a smooth non-disruptive data migration. It’s data virtualization double-duty; reduced data volume and simple data migration too.

Advances don’t stop, and we’ve seen Flash feasibility make a good deal of progress since 2014. Price was always one of the biggest roadblocks to Flash uptake. Now, prices have come way down, with predictions that SSD and HDD will be nearly equivalent in cost by the end of 2016. Another roadblock was in the ways Flash was available. Many traditional storage vendors were doing their best to hold onto long-standing customers. So, they were pushing hybrid arrays that put SSDs in an architecture built for HDDs. OK, and useful for data tiering, but not optimal. Also, in 2014 there were limited choices for all-flash arrays, and those that did exist had few of the typical data management functions expected of an enterprise array such as thin provisioning, snapshots, or encryption. Now they do.

Gartner agrees that solid-state storage is going mainstream. In their March analysis “Moving Toward the All Solid-State Storage Data Center,” they recommend implementation of solid state arrays across the enterprise to reduce management and operational costs while creating new services that take advantage of the significant performance improvements.

“The value proposition of higher-capacity SSDs in denser storage systems will enable I&O leaders to better support the digital business by enabling new types of applications.”

       Gartner, March 2016*

A recent customer conversation threw a new light on motivations for a move to all-flash arrays. In this case, the customer was transitioning to an all-SaaS business model. IT had become the product delivery system, and they needed speed, reduced cost, and uptime reliability on a global scale. Several acquisitions meant absorbing new heterogeneous operating environments. They needed reliable Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity capabilities. They needed to become platform agnostic. So, using the potential of Actifio data virtualization, they addressed multiple pain points and gained an unexpected bonus – heterogeneous operations and the freedom from dependency upon a single vendor storage environment.

No longer locked in, they had their choice of new architectures designed for All-Flash platforms. They had the flexibility to create a hybrid cloud optimized for their new business model and flexible enough to dynamically change as needed. They were ready for Flash.

*Gartner, “Moving Toward the All Solid-State Storage Data Center” 10 March 2016

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