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Doing Business at the Speed of Flash

By Michael Kuhn, VP, IBM Enterprise Storage, IBM Corporation

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Michael Kuhn, VP, IBM Enterprise Storage, IBM Corporation

Insights from mobile and social data are helping businesses make better decisions deepening  customer engagement, optimizing operations, preventing threats and fraud, and capitalizing on new sources of revenue. Smart businesses realize that for business insights to be actionable and effective, data has to be refined, easily accessible and analyzed at a speed of flash to create value. It is the time to draw insights that determines success or failure of modern business.

"With IBM FlashSystem, some financial clients can now complete processes that used to take seven to eight hours in just 10 to 12 minutes"

In this insights economy high velocity analytics are key and flash storage contributes significantly to business success and growth. And the impact of flash storage is being felt across industries. Many enterprises will increase their adoption of flash technology; in fact, according to Gartner, 25 percent of all mission-critical workloads will be supported by flash arrays by 2019.

The healthcare industry is aggressively evolving on multiple fronts to satisfy increasing demands from divergent entities. Nurses use mobile carts with built-in laptops to chart information regarding their patients. Every time a nurse checks a patient, dispenses medication, or takes vital signs, information is logged into a laptop wirelessly connected to the hospital’s network. This data is recorded into a backend database where information regarding the patient is stored. For hospitals with hundreds of patients and hundreds of employees, this puts tremendous pressure on the database applications. Generating high numbers of both read and write cycles lead to longer latencies when accessing traditional hard drives.

Hard disk drives are just too slow. The fastest hard disk drives have peak performance access times of only 5 milliseconds. Flash storage can reduce this significantly making instant care a reality. For example, by removing the latency of moving parts, IBM FlashSystem units present access times of less than 100 microseconds, over 50 times faster than HDD.

The banking and financial industry is seeing similar transformation driven largely by online and mobile transactions and heightened risk management practices. The large number of digital transactions that banks and financial companies perform now-a-days requires storage with tremendous horsepower and zero latency. Online transaction processing and online financial analytics require sub-second response time. Faster batch processing is important too, as many tasks such as regulatory filings and customer account updates need to be completed overnight and can lead to penalties or customer dissatisfaction. Transaction processing workload with flash storage can be typically anywhere from 100 to 1,000 times quicker. With IBM FlashSystem, some financial clients can now complete processes that used to take seven to eight hours in just 10 to 12 minutes.

Flash storage has had an immense impact on E-commerce too. E-retailers want to provide a slick, reliable and secure shopping experience at the front-end, combined with rapid, seamless updates to vast product catalogs and price lists from numerous vendors and analytics for improved customer experience at the back-end. Database performance and faster analytics is key for a seamless online customer experience. Multi-terabyte databases can get a significant boost with flash storage. Extremely high database performance and availability helps online retailers to provide responsive service to buyers and sellers alike. Flash storage also delivers microsecond response times to analytics applications. More data analyzed at once means more potential to target customers with more relevant online shopping environment.

Online content delivery is another space where flash storage is doing wonders. As consumers view more online content, companies in that space are challenged with the massive amount of digital content that they have to translate to viewable format at the push of a button. Operations are often affected by heavy transcoding, constraint on amount of content delivered and overloaded disk systems. Online movie or music providers can use flash storage to significantly improve performance of transcoding jobs and created efficiencies by reducing load on disk systems. In one case, with the use of IBM FlashSystem, a martial arts promotion company that hosts online videos on its site saw 70 percent faster running transcoding jobs.

The value of performance continues to grow among businesses with the need for storage systems that can handle big data and analytics, mobile computing, and social engagement application workloads. Because these workloads generate much higher volume and velocity data streams, they drive higher user expectations. The agility and performance capabilities available in flash storage arrays today has changed how companies think about and purchase storage solutions. However, the choice to invest in any storage system is fundamentally a cost-benefit decision. Flash storage not only provides all the performance benefits a business needs, it also leads to lower power and space consumption and increased IT cost savings.

Thanks to the complementary trajectories of cost and capabilities, the big trend in storage right now and truly across the entire data center, is that flash has arrived. It’s about time.

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