Mobile telephones have been an invaluable tool for some time and when personal digital assistants (PDAs) started to appear on the market, they drove a whole new level of productivity.

However, when vendors such as Nokia and Apple started to provide convergence, something new appeared – the ubiquitous arrival of the smartphone.

Both technologies worked fine alone. But by combining two seemingly separate entities, a new tool that simply solved a number of challenges emerged. Surprisingly, the same theory can be applied to data storage.

Why make the decision to utilise high-cost flash memory or simple hard disk drives, when you can converge the technologies and deliver a truly ground-breaking combination?

Making a perfect marriage

For many, finding the most practical storage platform for the enterprise seems like an impossible venture. Businesses are drowning in data and as they start to shift towards virtual environments, the need for scalable and secure storage solutions that can underpin the infrastructure is escalating every day.

The answer has always been here, but it has been hidden behind the smoke and mirrors of the storage media. Sifting through the jargon to uncover the perfect platform can be harder than it first appears.

So what can businesses do to ensure their mission critical data is being stored in a risk-free environment while remaining instantly accessible? Hybrid could be the answer to everyone's storage troubles.

During the difficult economic situation, we see most customers looking for a truly balanced approach and that really is what hybrid solutions offer. Hybrid storage provides a combination of solid-state drives (SSD) with hard disk drive (HDD) technology.

That way, the speed of SSDs can be utilised while the HDDs provide that all-important capacity needed to support a growing enterprise. Despite the media hype, flash storage is merely one tool that can be utilised to address performance issues rather than a complete solution.

The merits of hybrid

However by combining flash and HDDs into a single pool, the most appropriate tool can be utilised – be it cache memory, SSD or traditional hard disk storage. In essence, hybrid storage with real-time tiering is the only methodology to cost effectively address the storage architecture challenge presented by unpredictable VDI workloads.

Business owners know the importance of implementing a storage solution that underpins their virtual environment, eliminates the risk of data loss and provides their business with the opportunity to grow – and they don't want to pay over the odds for it.

Alternatives to a hybrid solution, such as adding flash cards to servers, can significantly limit the growth and functionality of any end-to-end virtualised solution. Not to mention the initial cost outlay that could be eye-wateringly high for a large corporation.

That cost can only increase as the business grows and growth is on the horizon for most successful businesses, so why is it that so many organisations are being duped in to replacing their storage solution when it nears capacity, rather than simply being able to scale out?

Demand more from vendors

When implementing a hybrid storage solution the most important thing for an enterprise to do is to demand more from its storage vendor. There is no reason for businesses to settle for a short warranty period of one to three years and in reality, there's no reason why at least a five-year lifespan should not be the norm.

Additionally, when implementing a scalable hybrid solution, IT departments should be able to trust their hybrid platform to work at its full potential even when it reaches its maximum capacity.

Should a vendor claim that their hardware is reliable, ask them to produce a customer testimonial of someone who's had a unit installed for at least five years and hasn't had any downtime. Better yet, ask for one who's never had a single service call. Yes, they do exist.

Ultimately, some things work well separately yet provide something invaluable when combined. Be that mobile phones and PDAs, gin and tonic or flash and hard disk drives. Sometimes mixing two seemingly average entities can create one exceptional combination.

  • Gavin McLaughlin, Solutions Development Director at X-IO Storage is based in X-IO's London office covering the EMEA region.