All-flash vs disk storage: 10 reasons why flash is the way forward

1. Capable of harnessing the data explosion

Businesses are still struggling with tight IT budgets whilst battling with the management of large amounts of data. With IDC predicting that the amount of data stored will grow in excess of 50 per cent per annum in the next coming years, the demand on storage systems will only increase. The situation is further exacerbated by ageing legacy systems that are no longer fit for purpose.

In addition, today's businesses require more performance, more resilience and more efficiency, driven by new technologies such as cloud solutions, virtualisation and big data. With the intensified pace with which business is being conducted, in order to remain competitive there needs to be a greater level of efficiency and improved responsiveness.

2. Flexible and scalable

The key benefit is the level of performance all-flash storage arrays are capable of delivering to suit all budgets, all workloads and all IT departments. It addresses the need for quick access, enabling businesses to analyse more data, process more transactions, accelerate applications and services in order to meet growing demands. It offers these capabilities at a competitive price to disk, so it's now a cost-effective option, and provides IT administrators with a very easy to manage alternative that results in a reduction in management costs.

In addition, all-flash storage provides significant total cost of ownership savings in the shape of requiring less space (a fifth of spinning disk storage systems) and less power (5,000 watts for disk arrays vs. 1,000 watts for flash). These are particularly significant in a data centre environment considering the increasing cost and short supply of both commodities.

Regardless of size and industry, all-flash arrays provide a competitive advantage and increases levels of productivity. All-flash storage will transform the storage architecture and revolutionise the enterprise data centre.

3. The technology has developed significantly over last 5 years

Until recently, flash has been most commonly associated with consumer grade flash memory (MLC) found in products such as smartphones and digital cameras. From a computing perspective MLC flash has been reserved for PC gaming enthusiasts.

More recently flash capability has been added to enterprise disk storage arrays, to servers on PCIe cards, and some all-flash arrays that only target the most demanding storage performance requirements. Initially it was only the large companies that could afford enterprise class flash, but now all-flash storage array solutions are starting to offer hardened consumer grade flash that provides the levels of reliability, availability and serviceability required in a data centre environment at a much lower price point that is affordable to businesses of any size.

4. Becoming more affordable

The most common misconception is that all-flash is unaffordable, typically costing more than disk. Although all-flash can be more expensive than disk to buy raw, through deduplication, compression and other data reduction techniques delivering savings, today's flash storage solutions are being offered at a much more affordable cost per useable Gigabyte. Moreover, when you take into account the greater power efficiency that all-flash offers and savings from server consolidation – the cost of all-flash can be less than disk.

Another concern has been that flash storage systems are not highly available. The first generation of flash form factors did not provide high availability, but today the emergence of true all-flash arrays developed from the ground up have built-in HA, snapshots, replication and other data management features. These arrays feature fully redundant hardware combined with sophisticated software that automatically handles any underlying problems.

There are still those that believe all-flash storage is reserved for the high performance fringe. In reality, it is best suited to optimising virtualisation and databases which are now commonplace in businesses of all sizes. With today's all-flash solutions being made available at a much more affordable price, it is no longer out of reach of SMBs.

5. Disk no longer fit for purpose

2013 is deemed to be the tipping point for businesses to speed up their IT infrastructure and increase productivity as the demand to get more from less continues. Disk is no longer fit for purpose and recent developments in flash means this technology is now well-placed to address many of the challenges that businesses face today cost-effectively. Coupled with the fact that all-flash storage arrays are now being made available at a lower price point, meaning they are now more easily accessible, it's easy to see why adoption rates are predicted to increase.

6. Appropriate for businesses of all sizes 

It all comes down to cost. By using consumer-grade MLC flash coupled with sophisticated software to handle enterprise workloads, flash is being offered at a much more affordable cost so that the technology is not just reserved for enterprises who can afford to pay the high price for the benefits.

7. High performance, low latency

Although all IT environments and applications will benefit from an all-flash storage array, it will be those that require high performance and low latency that businesses will be able to see the biggest improvement in. Virtualised servers and virtual desktop environments for example, require high performance with highly randomised workloads for which an all-flash environment is perfect for. Another good example is large databases that require high performance in order to achieve optimum results.

8. Biggest organisations now deploying all-flash

Today's all-flash storage arrays are being designed to suit the needs of all companies, regardless of size and industry. However, it's those companies that require really fast transactions that stand to gain the most. We're seeing demand from financial institutions such as banks and hedge funds, social networks, government organisations and global telecoms providers.

9. Long-term time and cost savings

On top of flash being available at below the price per usable gigabyte that enterprises have been paying for disk arrays, there are also long-term savings associated with all-flash arrays. Businesses are able to reduce their OPEX costs by lowering electricity consumption while also optimising power and cooling in the data centre, whilst also requiring less space for the actual storage array.

In addition, today's all-flash storage arrays are designed with ease-of use in mind, meaning that a system can be up and running quickly due to the simplicity with which it can be configured, saving time. Using a simple user interface, maintainance and management of these systems are significantly minimised. Capacity can also be expanded easily and routine upgrades performed non-disruptively, without any degradation in performance.

Businesses deploying a VDI environment will also benefit from an optimised end user experience increasing productivity due to the sub millisecond latency provided by all-flash storage.

10. Can be tailored to your specific storage needs

Before rushing into making a quick purchasing decision, make sure to look out for a robust storage guarantee. Fortunately, you can ensure that the all-flash storage solution meets all your current storage needs as well as having the capability to expand easily as your needs change. Make sure you take advantage of enterprise features such as non-disruptive upgrades, enhanced data security, third-party application support and data reduction capabilities. 24x7x365 global support is also an essential criteria.

Mark Lewis is Product Marketing Director of Pure Storage, based in California's Silicon Valley.

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