At the beginning of 2014, there was a lot of chatter about it being the year for the enterprise storage industry, with many commentators using "phenomenal" as their preferred description. However, it is doubtful that anyone fully appreciated just how big the change would be.
Flash technology is changing how we work, live and play today. You may not always see flash, but much of your daily activity is fuelled by it. It's all around us, part of every step we take and even when we rest. Devices monitor our sleep and our homes; did you check today's temperature on your phone? Or use it to monitor your morning run? Using a GPS device to navigate through traffic en-route to your next meeting? All of those activities are made possible by flash-enabled devices.
When our data leaves our personal devices, it often hits a cloud data centre where all that data is being stored, archived, backed up and even analysed to deliver us the services we rely on and ensure our digital records and files are safely stored and readily available. Flash is also transforming the server and storage industry, penetrating data centres across all applications and tiers.
Let's take a look at the ways that flash is impacting the various tiers of today's data centres.
1. Flash acceleration of diverse business applications
Flash technology is already becoming a key enabler for various industries and workloads, from online transaction processing in the financial industry, through virtualisation of servers and desktops to database acceleration, big data and cloud services. However, this is only scratching the surface of the possible applications!
In 2015, there will be increasing cases of flash being adopted across new industries. New applications of the technology will be designed and adopted across healthcare, the oil and gas industry, media and entertainment, and more.
2. Flash for archival storage
In today's data-driven world, archive information is no longer inactive but now acts as a "warehouse" for frequently accessed information, such as the content found on Spotify, Netflix, Facebook and Flickr.
For organisations that rightly view their archives as a resource to be mined and protected, rather than an expense, flash speeds up the data analytics that allow companies to extract value and understanding from a mass of collected data over time. Compared to traditional tape and spun-down hard disk drives, flash provides a dramatically more responsive experience for the user.
In addition, the growing capacities of SSDs (as mentioned above) will see new archiving solutions adopting flash-based storage – recognising that they offer greater cost savings than hard drives for long-term storage owing to less vulnerability to temperature and humidity degradation.
3. Tiering of different types of flash
Tiering storage or hierarchical storage management is an appealing concept for data centre managers, as it helps achieve a better balance between price, performance, capacity and function.
Until recently, flash was used as a tier for hot data requiring high read/write rates, with all other data on slow HDDs. But flash devices now come in several different options, such as write intensive, read intensive, cold read, high capacity, etc. The variety of flash-enabled SSDs available now means businesses can create a complete solution with better performance and total cost of ownership (TCO). To make this a reality, caching software will be developed to move data between the different types of flash devices. Thus, data centres will fully maximise the benefits of flash across all storage tiers.
Whilst it's no longer front page news to say that the future of flash is bright, it remains one of the most exciting developments in the industry – particularly as flash finds its way into new aspects of IT infrastructure. At this rate, we might just be as amazed at the end of 2015 as we were last year by what has been achieved through wider adoption of flash. Until then, we continue to spread the word and wait with patient anticipation.
- Marcos Burnett is head of sales for Northern Europe at SanDisk
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