Five essential questions to ask your flash provider

Today, customers want more from flash. They want the enterprise-grade features that customers have always seen as the strengths of storage operating system software.

This includes the elimination of downtime, even that which is planned, by offering scalable solutions for operations that will not disrupt the normal workflow of the company.

In order to gain the maximum benefits of flash, enterprises should be asking tough questions of their storage partners. So, if you want to test the mettle of your flash provider, use this list of magic flash questions.

1. Does flash integrate with the cloud?

Enterprises looking into flash storage options are right to question whether they are ready to adopt flash if they are still experimenting with other storage technologies, such as cloud. So, where does flash sit within the wider storage ecosystem and can it be used to complement existing cloud-based platforms?

If you want flash systems to communication with cloud-based storage, you need to work with a provider that can deliver a seamlessly integrated storage environment, supporting live workload migration between flash and the cloud, as well as other storage technologies, such as HDD tiers or on premises solutions. Flash should not be a siloed storage solution, but a fully-integrated part of your wider data management and storage ecosystem.

2. How can I effectively manage my data with flash?

A solid and efficient storage infrastructure is a key requirement for businesses. For many, speed is top of the agenda – but being able to manage storage in an effective way is equally important to support business-critical processes. This applies in particular to flash deployments: Here, adequate data management software that works seamlessly across storage systems and clusters of systems is crucial to maximise system utilisation and boost performance.

Businesses should look for intuitive graphical user interfaces that reduce training needs and deliver highly automated and integrated data management and analysis to improve the speed and quality of decision making.

3. What is the ROI of flash?

There is more to flash than just basic cost: In non-flash environments, databases, which are licensed per CPU core, cannot make full use of server CPU power. CPU utilisation is often as low as 20 per cent as a result of I/O bottlenecks, when server cores have to sit and wait for I/O from hard disk drives. This not only slows performance, but also negatively affects revenue, productivity and customer experience.

All Flash FAS that can drive up IOPS and database server CPU utilisation by as much as four times and reduce latency by 95 per cent, can enable businesses to achieve this level of performance with half as many servers. This reduces the number of servers needed and the number of cores you have to license, driving down costs by 50 per cent or more and paying back your investment in flash in as little as six months.

4. What applications do I need all-flash for?

Business-critical applications which are underpinned by databases, such as websites, CRM systems and financial trading platforms, are common use-cases for all-flash arrays. Consistency is key with these applications, which not only create generally heavy workloads to handle average use, but also experience high usage peaks. What matters most is how the application performs at times of peak traffic, as you want users to have the same experience that they would usually expect. From a commercial standpoint, this is when speed matters most, as your organisation may be failing to service customers due to slow response times.

It is in these environments that the all-flash array thrives. While hybrid-flash arrays are ideal for unpredictable workload characteristics, all-flash is the prime choice for those applications that require sub-millisecond latency, performance optimised-storage and capacity requirements that exceed flash-tier maximums.

5. Is all-flash here to stay?

It clearly is: Gartner research suggests the all-flash array market will expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 37 per cent between 2014 and 2019. To gain the most from all-flash, you need a complete range of enterprise features to avoid creating storage siloes. From an engineering perspective, it is always faster to add higher performance to an existing proven architecture, than to add enterprise-grade features to a new architecture.

When choosing a flash provider you should be looking for much more than just a provision of technology, but a partner that is capable of demystifying the flash paradigm and developing a solution that meets the specific needs of your business.

Furthermore, as with all IT decisions, you should consider the ROI on your investment, and whether you are buying a temporary fix or a future-proofed solution to meet your long-term performance needs.

Laurence James, Products, Alliances and Solutions Marketing Manager, NetApp

Image source: Shutterstock/Ralwel