There are numerous devices that use flash storage for memory such as cell phones, USB drives and portable media players. Recently, flash storage has begun to be incorporated into data storage applications for enterprise. Some may ask, “What is flash storage?” Flash storage is similar to random access memory (RAM) in a computer except that the information it stores is retained when the computer is powered off. Information stored in RAM is lost when the computer is powered down. In addition, the data recorded on a flash memory is accomplished electronically and stored magnetically rather than mechanically as with ROM or hard drives. Flash memory incorporates floating gate MOSFET transistors that are positioned on a grid. Traditional transistors have only one gate but MOSFETs have two, referred to as NAND gates. These two gates allow a voltage to be stored between them. The voltage stored on the chip represents information, and it will be retained for several years unless erased.
Flash storage offers several advantages over traditional hard drives. Flash based memory has no mechanical parts that may be subject to wear or damage. Furthermore, the processing speed of storage disks that incorporate mechanical parts is significantly less than that of flash memory. Flash storage is smaller and does not require the amount of space needed for hard drives. The energy consumption is also substantially less. The amount of data being processed by businesses today has reached limits beyond the capabilities of mechanical storage devices. Batch processing and parallel reporting places such a heavy load on the system that it begins to experience performance issues. Flash storage allows all data to be accessed at the same speed regardless of the locale or the number of users.
The increase in the amount of data being imported has led to lengthy jobs that, even when run overnight, extend into the following day, disrupting workflow. Flash storage can substantially reduce the amount of time it takes to import data. It provides extremely low, microsecond latency and high throughput. Flash storage allows an increase in the number of data sources from which batch jobs may be processed over that of disk storage devices. Their ability to parallel process can reduce import jobs from hours down to minutes.
The business community has long sought the ability to process data in real time. Real time data processing provides an immense increase in productivity. The capability to instantaneously view information from a manufacturing process allows corrections to be made that will improve the process and eliminate waste product. While disk storage has the ability to process data in less than a second, it doesn’t meet the demand for many business applications. Flash storage processes data nearly instantaneously, improving efficiency in nearly all facets of the business.
Flash storage enables simultaneous report generation for improved productivity. Its ability to parallel process allows superior performance while executing multiple operations. Since flash storage allocates information across the entire chip, it can perform numerous concurrent tasks without degrading functionality. This enables data to be accessed from a variety of sources by numerous end users. It is capable of processing large data sets which will eliminate the need to generate numerous, smaller sets of data for reports.
Configuration and scalability are simplified with flash storage. Disk storage systems require specific architectures to be constructed so that the anticipated demands may be met. These systems lack the flexibility needed for changing business environments. Their inability to adapt to new circumstances necessitates they be completely reconfigured. Flash storage does not require purpose built architectures. It can manage multivariable data queries in seconds. The simplistic connectivity of flash storage makes transitioning from disk storage effortless.
Options for enterprise flash storage solutions are currently employed in one of three ways. Many businesses have adapted a hybrid system where hard drives are used for capacity and flash storage for speed. The flash storage maybe also be used as a cache on the server. In some cases, an all-flash storage system may be adopted. Each of these has both positive and negative aspects, depending on the various operations to be performed. The method by which flash storage is implemented will be determined by the needs and demands of the enterprise. Each will be required to evaluate the combination of resources that best complements their operations.