Flash Storage – What CIOs really need to know

Brett Anderson, Senior Director of  HPE Solutions for Logicalis US, looks at the latest views on flash storage and explains that not everything is what it seems; helping CIOs to avoid being dazzled by the sales literature and becoming victims of trying out new tech, rather than victors.

The need for speed

Ask any IT pro about storage and sooner rather than later, very quickly in fact, flash will be the topic of conversation. The reason is simple – flash is fast, really fast.

Until recently, though, the hefty price tag has put flash out of the reach of many IT pros, despite the clear performance advantages over disk and good old tape. But that is beginning to change, as flash vendors’ marketing material is suggesting that prices may even be comparable to spinning disk. Excellent.

Whoa – slow down!

However, in order to bring the price of flash arrays down, manufacturers are using a technique called “compaction” – basically compression. The problem is, not all data is compressible. CSV data files and text yes, but jpegs and video that have already been compressed – no.

Speed v time

Crucially, though, the thing to understand about flash is its real advantage isn’t speed – it’s time.  The performance gains you can achieve with a flash array put useable data into decision-makers’ hands in record time.

But not all flash arrays are the same – so there are a number of factors to consider before deciding if flash is right for you.

  1. Performance
    If you need faster input-output (I/O), you may find a flash array an attractive idea, but one of the chief considerations in terms of delivering that performance, is whether the array you select is built for an enterprise environment. Don’t automatically assume you’ll get the same level of enterprise capability you’re accustomed to in every flash array.
  1. Cost
    If you have a lot of uncompressed data, flash can be as inexpensive as disk storage when compaction techniques are employed, but it all depends on the kind of data being stored.
  1. Manageability
    The easier a storage environment is to manage, the fewer people will be needed for this task.  Your goal is to select a solution that requires you to dedicate only part of a single person’s time to managing the organisation’s storage environment - look for an array that combines the performance advantages of flash with the cost advantages of a general-purpose array in a single frame with an easy-to-use interface.
  1. Migration
    No different from any other – think about timing and when downtime will have the least impact.
  1. Growth
    What happens when your organisation grows and more storage capacity is needed? Look for solutions that offer smaller upgrade increments rather than some of the larger vendor defined flash modules – ask about the controller limits as well.  Because flash is so fast, you can exceed your storage system’s performance capabilities; if you exceed your I/O requirements, what’s the next step?

So flash storage can help you deliver performance to the business, and that’s what we are all striving to do, but, as with all new technologies, asking the right questions first will ensure you do not become a victim of the new tech, rather, you will be a victor.

Want to learn more? Start by reading a Logicalis US white paper, “Changing the Speed of Business,” and downloading a flash storage infographic to learn what flash can do for you.

Tags storage, IT trends, Storage and Backup, Flash Storage, IT Trends