You are likely to have used flash storage at some point in your life, if you have browsed the web on a laptop, listened to music on an MP3 player or even texted someone on your smartphone. In fact any device with flash chips that can serve as a storage repository is loosely termed as flash storage. It can be anything from a USB device to an all-flash storage array. Flash storage was initially only used to augment traditional media or hard disk drives as a caching complement. But since then flash technology has become faster and more reliable. Solid state drives (SSD) with fully integrated circuit board, containing multiple flash chips are now being designed to replace the spinning media for hosting data sets for key applications. With enterprise data storage needs continuing to rise, it may be time to revisit the flash versus disk-based storage systems debate. Let us take a serious look at the benefits of having an all-flash infrastructure for data centers.
What Is Flash Memory?
A traditional hard drive utilizes rotating platters and heads to read data from a magnetic device, whereas flash storage uses a type of non-volatile semiconductor flash memory technology to store data. helps to eliminate any rotational delay in spinning disk and seek time functions to improve performance. Toshiba and Intel first produced flash memory devices way back in the 1980s that were based on electrically erasing programmable read only memory technology, which allowed data to be written and deleted electronically in a flash.
Flash uses a trapped charge on non-volatile memory chips to store data and therefore the data is retained, even when power is removed. The primary technologies used for flash storage are single level cell, dual level cell, triple level cell, 3D Flash and variants on each of them. The flash memory capacity has doubled every year since it came about and according to estimates the cost per bit for flash has reduced by a factor of 200,000, which is why enterprises are now looking at flash as a complete replacement for hard drive arrays.
Choosing An All-Flash Array
An all-flash array is a storage system wholly built around solid-state drives or flash memory with very high I/O capability, instead of traditional hard disk drives (HDD). Flash provides fast, reliable and consistent performance with low latency and fast data transfer rates. Flash storage devices are now available with capabilities of 500,000 up to one million input/output operations per second in a single footprint and latency figures of one millisecond or less. They can stand up to the demands of high-performance applications for instant access and low latency.
Adding SSDs into existing hardware platforms may provide a better solution than a hard drive-based array but it certainly does not best utilize flash storage capabilities. Traditional storage arrays help in optimizing the performance of the hard drive through the use of caching and intelligent algorithms to complement the physics of accessing spinning media. Whereas all-flash arrays are designed from the ground up to work with the unique characteristics of flash media by providing enough back-end bandwidth capacity to cope with solid-state media. There is also planning for wear leveling across all devices and preparation for multi-layer redundancy in case of failure.
Operational Advantages Of All-Flash Storage For The Enterprise
All-flash arrays may not be less expensive than hybrid arrays or traditional hard disk arrays, on a dollar-per-gigabyte basis ($/GB) but a better cost comparison model would be on a dollar-per number of input output operations per second basis ($/IOP). The total cost of ownership and acquisition cost for all-flash solutions can be significantly lowered by intelligently using storage optimization technologies, such as data de-duplication, thin provisioning, and compression. According to a study by Wikibon, the total cost of ownership for flash is expected to continue to fall through 2020 and the cost per terabyte will reduce from roughly $151 in 2016 to $9 by 2020. All-flash disk arrays can provide ultra-high speed performance, enterprise-class availability, reliability and storage efficiencies with built-in preventive maintenance for cost savings.
All-flash solutions are better for high performance applications, such as transactional databases or virtual infrastructures, including server and desktop infrastructures that can often cause a bottleneck. SSD arrays are more suited to an environment where low latency and consistently high throughput are required because it can deliver millions of IOPS and sub-millisecond latency in a tiny space. Flash memory can speed up complex database operations and provide consistent robust performance capabilities with built in redundancies, while being scalable and reliable.
Flash storage can allow a company to do things that were simply not possible to do with traditional storage, like speed up its business analytics process and to potentially create new business opportunities. SSD’s remove bottlenecks in the environment by speeding up existing processes and providing quick access to stored data so that businesses can do more in the same amount of time. A move to flash storage can considerably reduce the backup window and decision-making time, while increasing work productivity and revenue growth.
Solid-state drives are more durable because they don’t rely on any moving parts whereas hard drives depend on spinning disks. There is no cause for concern about damage to the storage units or loss of data should any disaster happen to the flash storage. This is an amazing attribute where data security is concerned. Due to the lack of moving parts in flash storage, SSD’s use fewer resources than traditional storage solutions, thus saving substantial money in reduced energy costs.
Transition To Flash
Your organization should first evaluate its data set, application behavior and workload to best determine whether it would benefit from an all-flash storage system in its data center. Storage management of massive disk arrays can be challenging but more enterprises are transitioning to all-flash data storage for time-sensitive and key performance applications. Falling SSD prices and the availability of more quantifiable reports from organizations about the strategic business advantages of adopting an all-flash storage solution will definitely result in an uptick for all-flash rollouts.