There’s a sea of change afoot in enterprise data centers, focused on identifying the best storage media for the mountain of application data. As opposed to the loyal, hard disk drive (HDD), enterprise storage is being transformed by the use of persistent flash memory for primary workloads. Yet, with all the good flash storage can do, there are a few misconceptions that can derail an otherwise solid flash storage investment. If you plan to deploy flash storage, read on for three cautions and considerations from a technology partner.
Consider These 3 Items Before Investing in Flash Storage
Caution #1: Beware of Shifting Bottlenecks
Don’t be surprised if the introduction of ultra-fast flash storage now sheds light on the relative slowness of other parts of the data center. With the disk drive no longer the bottleneck to application performance, setbacks may still occur anywhere from the storage controller, to the network, to the CPU. Inefficient application coding can even inhibit peak flash performance. Don’t expect to see results overnight from a simple deployment; achieving peak flash performance may well require a longer, more planned overhaul of key data center components.
Caution #2: Avoid the Trap of the “Latest-and-Greatest”
Flash storage vendors are quick to point out how much better their latest gear is from that of their competitors. And sometimes, they may be right. But does every organization require the best, fastest model of flash storage? Just like buying the newest iPhone model might be enticing for some, do most organizations really need all the bells and whistles?
When it comes to flash storage, ask yourself if your organization’s current data center infrastructure can even keep up with the latest iteration of flash. If your network and data center have trouble keeping up with the current versions of flash, how will it keep up with the next iterations? And can vendors of servers and storage chassis match the pace of flash innovation? The truth is that the vendor ecosystem to accommodate the latest flash technology with sufficient network bandwidth, sufficient NICs and ports may well have to play catch up before your enterprise can make the most of the newest flash versions.
What’s our advice for data centers wanting to incorporate flash now and reap its benefits? Be prepared to wait for vendors to catch up to the edge of flash technology. In the meantime, investigate ways to successfully incorporate flash storage “tiers,” which might take the form of all-flash storage arrays, server-side flash or hybrid storage arrays.
Caution #3: Don’t Forget to Balance Cost with Performance
IT often has a limited budget, so unless your business has lots of expendable cash, the addition of the latest, most expensive all-flash storage array may still be a tough sell to upper executives.
WEI is often asked to help IT organizations assess and quantify the relative merits they will gain from large IT investments vs. the initial cost to deploy them. In the case of flash storage, the market is crowded and there are many versions of flash to consider. Some may offer a better compromise of cost while still bringing the performance boost needed for key applications, so make sure you strike a balance.
These cautions may help balance the hype of flash against its reality in the data center. Is flash storage the future of data center storage? Yes. But as you move to incorporate flash storage media into your own data center, keep in mind the following: There is more than one way to boost application performance and flash is just one of them. To learn more from WEI, a trusted custom IT solutions provider, read our tech brief, "3 Cautions when using Flash in the Data Center."