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The Move Towards Flash Storage

Traditional HDDs outperformed themselves in terms of storage capacities over the last decades. However, with the increasing amount of data and the need for faster data transfers, HDDs are slowly finding their place in slow environments and are being replaced by flash storage. This could mean several things for enterprises.

SSD Cloud StorageFor one, flash storage is associated with low-latency and high performance and can thus be a crucial asset in VDI environments that consist of highly structured databases. When the speeds of flash storage devices are coupled with the capacities of traditional HDDs, access to greatly needed data is made possible while still ensuring that old data is still kept at bay in slower HDDs.

Perhaps the one barrier towards this move towards flash storage has always been the costs involved with SSDs. By default, flash memory costs more per GB than any HDD in the market.

SSD Price vs. Disk Price

SSD prices would, of course, always be miles ahead of HDD prices, but Dell is slowly redefining this popular concept. Dell’s innovative flash-optimized solutions now offer up to two times the price advantage compared to the competitive hybrid solutions and up to five times the price advantage over the competitive flash solutions.

The software bundled solution that Dell puts on the table allows one to exercise cost-effectiveness without sacrificing high performance.

Other than that, there are three main things that should be considered when deploying flash storages in an enterprise. These are: form factor, location of the storage tier, and the performance.

Generally, the closer an SSD’s form factor is to a HDD, the more likely it is to be cheap and easier to replace, and this set up comes with some great advantages too.

Firstly, there will be improved application performance and an improved reliability when compared to HDDs. A single platform for block and file, for instance, provides efficiency and resilience while still keeping your IT budget on the low side. Low latency is also one of the other advantages that comes with this set up.

This will lead to low complexity and overhead of separate solutions and a reduction on the time spent in managing the storage.

Debunking The “Flash Will Die Theory”

Despite the many merits that flash storage has over traditional storage devices, there are new disadvantages that try to explain why flash storage won’t last long.

One of these reasons is that as flash slowly becomes more affordable, its reliability will also go down with it, and this is slightly because of the decrease in flash lithography and an increase in write density.

While it is true that flash storage will, at some point in the future, become obsolete, this theory assumes that as flash storage markets flourish, surrounding markets will remain at standstill. This may not be entirely true since there has been much innovation in flash controllers as there has been in flash NAND.

Another reason why enterprises should disregard the “flash will die” theory is that it also assumes that flash storage builders will fail to improve their technology over time. However, this is also untrue since these storage builders are constantly trying to make technologies that minimize flash writes. It is thus expected that storage system builders will continue improving their technologies while increasing their ability to compress and identify duplicate data so as to minimize the flash writes.

Flash tiering is also slowly beginning to emerge. It involves writing data to a small reliable single-level-cell-based tier and then moved to a multi-level cell while it becomes stable and read-only. With this technology, SLCs could be used as shock absorbers to initial data that is written to a flash.

All in all, efficiency and better performance are the key pull factors that propel enterprises to slowly switch from traditional HDD to flash storage devices. However, the hefty price tags that flash storage devices come with are enough to slow down the move despite the reduction in price of flash storage devices. That leaves enterprises with three options: to couple slow HDD capacities with fast SSD to their storage systems, to encourage employees of an enterprise to bring along their own SSD devices when going to work, or to totally rely on slow HDDs for storage.

About Author
Jared Jaureguy is a technologoy consultant for large enterprises.  You can read more of his thoughts on his personal blog, Technology Hall.

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