Future of Flash

  • TECH
  • Tuesday, 11 Feb 2014

STORAGE solutions provider Hitachi Data Systems has been actively pursuing and pushing the development of Flash drive solutions since 2012.

In an e-mail interview with Bytz, the company’s storage platforms and solutions business director for the Asia Pacific region Saravanan Krishnan talks about the benefits and the future of the Flash industry.
Why choose all-Flash storage? What are the benefits/advantages compared to traditional rotational media?

For enterprise customers, Flash storage changes everything.  

Driven by the need to provide better storage performance and efficiency at a lower cost, more enterprises are turning to all-Flash storage array. It is not simply about increasing performance but managing the growing disparity between the annual performance gains of application servers and traditional rotational data storage.

With approximate annual performance growth rates of 50% in CPU and 10% in storage there is an increasingly widening performance gap.

This dichotomy increasingly stresses the ability of storage to serve data at the rate required by today’s high-performance applications. Such applications include transaction-heavy database applications, business and financial analytic, data mining, data warehousing, production archive, virtual machine deployment and virtual desktop infrastructure.

Flash memory is so much faster than disk storage but why hasn’t it become a standard choice for use in servers? Is it because of the cost?

Some applications, such as backup and archives, simply do not need the performance characteristics associated with Flash. In fact they are more capacity hungry than anything else.

Though cost does play a considerable factor, it has been declining over the last few years — from US$11.12 (RM33.36)/GB in 2012 to IDC’s forecast 2016 price of US$2.88 (RM8.64)/GB — a compound annual growth rate of 28.7%.

What’s your thought on using a hybrid storage instead. Why not get the best of both worlds?

Enterprise customers are looking for simplicity in deployment in their already complex datacentre.
While conceptually they look into deploying a hybrid solution, they don’t want to introduce another media type such as hybrid storage into their Flash, SAS, and SATA tiers.

Customers prefer a software based, dynamic tiering strategy to intelligently move data between these different media types based on application workload requirements.

This way, they maintain the flexibility while reducing complexity, hence getting more than the best of both worlds.

How does one determine the best Flash solution? What should a company look for?
In general, the best Flash solutions should deliver leading performance, lowest bit cost, highest capacity and extended endurance.

These in turn translate into the business outcome of faster time to market, better storage economics, maximising data centre efficiency and enhancing the reliability.

What kind of Flash storage solutions does Hitachi offer? What differentiates it from your rivals?

Hitachi Accelerated Flash (HAF) storage is the company’s first custom-designed, enterprise-class solid-state drive (SSD) storage option for enterprise workloads that delivers leading performance, lower cost and improved endurance.

In the past, the widespread adoption of Flash technology as the mainstream storage option has been hampered by high costs, limited endurance and sub-optimal writing performance.

IT organisations have been forced to make trade offs in performance and capacity to reach the cost points that their shrinking budgets can accommodate.

HAF fundamentally changes this model by eliminating these trade offs and answering demands for high capacity and performance at the lowest cost per bit.

It changes the model by leveraging advanced Hitachi controller technology to increase the performance of multilayer cell (MLC) Flash to levels that exceed more costly single-level cell (SLC) Flash. It also extends
MLC Flash endurance to enterprise levels.

What is the future of Flash enterprise storage?

The enterprise Flash storage market is maturing, with more customers taking a closer look at SSDs (which are primarily designed for the client consumer market).

Unfortunately, the initial excitement over Flash performance is becoming tempered by concerns over storage density, durability and the “write cliff” phenomenon due to using commodity SSDs in enterprise storage systems.

The phenomenon refers to where the performance of an SSD drive drops dramatically and suddenly over time, leading to degradation in write performance and often overall performance.

With experience comes wisdom, and more enterprise storage vendors are producing larger capacity, more durable and write cliff-free enterprise-grade SSDs.

HDS expects to see an explosion in enterprise Flash storage this year.
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