What’s the next frontier for business transformation?
For companies tirelessly working towards better customer services and heightened experiences, snags in the core systems can be a major pitfall. Lags in provisioning and de-provisioning your application environment, for instance, has become a huge barrier. This calls for storage solutions that can handle increasing volumes and plug the gaps in existing systems.
That’s where flash storage comes in. It goes beyond the basics, with features that guarantee speed and performance. In fact, for mission-critical applications in data-heavy sectors like banking, media, retail and e-commerce, using flash storage can unlock throughput levels like never before.
The many advantages of flash storage make it a ‘right-fit’ solution for several application categories –
- On-line Analytical Processing
- On-line Transaction Processing
- High Input/output Operations per Second-intensive databases & warehouses
- Inline data analytics
- Hybrid storage architectures
- Virtual desktop interfaces
- DevOps platforms and web-server workloads
- Cloud as-a-service model
Initially, an SLC (Single-level Cell) device, flash storage has evolved to MLC (Multi-level Cell) – and finally NVM (Non-Volatile Memory) architectures. TLC and 3D NAND flash media have come with algorithms for performing lesser writes on flash media cells, thereby reducing the write endurance. This makes room for features such as inline data compression, inline deduplication, data reduction. What does this mean for companies? Well, first the expected lifespan of flash media is sure to increase. Also, effective utilization of storage footprint will reduce cost-per-GB, making flash storage an economically viable, inclusive technology across segments.
Infinite Possibilities and Real-world Advantages of Flash Storage
The shift to NVM and the drop in the cost-per-GB has stretched the reach of flash storage to SMBs as well. As a result, enterprise flash storage has changed infrastructure functionalities across the board.
#1, a Decline in the use of Magnetic Storage Media
Given its incredible simplifying potential, enterprise flash storage will form the core of mission-critical applications (tier-1 & 2 workloads) and the public cloud, for all the lower-tier applications (tier-3 & 4 workloads).
In the last three years, there has been a move from storage area networks and network-tethered storage arrays, to unified hybrid flash storage infrastructure. The rise of software-defined storage marks the next bend – rack servers with software-defined capabilities will now host mission-critical workloads on flash storage pools.
#2, a Step closer to Analytics-first
Customer-centricity has been an industry buzzword for a while now. To better map, understand and predict user preferences, enterprises are fast jumping on the analytics bandwagon with elaborate Big Data platforms that allow real-time, streaming, predictive, prescriptive, diagnostic, and descriptive analytics.
Using flash storage in storage arrays and hyper-converged products will accelerate the process – substantially shortening turnaround times.
#3, Reduced Need for Backups
Flash storage questions the dynamics of traditional backups. For a dedicated flash storage array, a virtualized, slow-speed disk storage will suffice.
For a hybrid storage array, a dedicated backup strategy that deploys enterprise-grade tools is required.
For Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI) servers, on the other hand, a backup solution isn’t required unless data criticality warrants an exception.
#4, the Introduction of Alternative Architectures
Flash storage is fueling the next level of HCI structures – signaled by ‘Enterprise Cloud Ready’ architectures. And like HCI servers, rack servers are also catching up – matching the features and capabilities of HCI which combine disk and hybrid flash storage.
An intelligent mix of rack servers with hybrid flash storage and other technologies is a compelling alternative to the typical HCI, drastically minimizing investment needs.
Are Suppliers Ready for a Radical Rethink?
When responding to a typical customer RFP, vendors must outline a prospective efficiency and impact analysis of storage infrastructure. In fact, this should be a complementary service to initiate the engagement. Enterprise flash storage calls for experienced, enlightened, and capable supplier teams to deliver the following:
• Storage Efficiency Report detailing storage efficiency in terms of latency and response times
• Financial Impact analysis marking TCO and ROI of current and future storage infrastructure states
• Reference Architecture defining ‘to-be-achieved’ state for storage infrastructure strategy
Upheaval beyond Enterprises – Think Transport and Entertainment
Just a few years ago, inadequate computing power and storage media was holding back the widespread adoption of AI. Now, thanks to flash media, automatic cars enhanced by AI will be commonplace by 2020.
Similarly, online entertainment brands, like Netflix, which provide streaming and video-on-demand, work with resolutions as high as 4K. This high-quality media obviously requires enormous storage, also pushing the processing ability to deliver such content on smart TVs.
That’s why next-generation Intel processors such as the Kaby Lake and Cannonlake series will probably be launched in the second half of 2017. In combination with Intel’s hyper-fast cores, flash media will unlock the level of efficiency needed for functional AI and online entertainment verticals, extending the advantages of flash storage to end users as well.
Not All Smooth Sailing: Tackling Scalability Issues of HCL
As the HCI landscape gradually upscales, performance issues are likely to creep in – a result of the hybrid mix of storage types. As HCI replaces traditional, mainstream architectures, ‘all-flash’ hyper-converged nodes will be indispensable when resolving these glitches. Integrated into every cog of the data center infrastructure, flash storage is already leading AI and DevOps into uncharted waters.
As the role of flash storage becomes wider and deeper, service providers must evolve in-sync. Clearly, the future calls for a host of reskilling initiatives – a revolution led by AI, DevOps, and hybrid cloud.