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Storage Technology Solutions Transforming Data Center

By Kevin DeNuccio, CEO, Violin Memory


Kevin DeNuccio, CEO, Violin Memory

I talk to a lot of CIOs and CEOs about the economic and competitive impacts of IT infrastructure, storage in particular. Let me share some insights and observations from those conversations to help get people focused on next generation storage technology solutions that can transform data center economics that save real money and open up new business opportunities by accelerating application performance.

Last year in these pages, I shared my perspective on the pace of flash storage adoption for mainstream enterprise workloads. I said traditional hard disk drive storage subsystems were in decline, and storage admins everywhere were delighted. Unnatural behaviors in the data center had masked the tremendous shortcomings of spinning storage systems performance for a long time.

Even then it was clear: legacy hard disk technology was no longer able to support the performance needs and use cases of today’s or tomorrow’s applications, and the True Cost of Ownership for legacy storage was too high.

Disk is Dead as Primary Storage

Over the last several months, the press, industry analysts like IDC, Mesabi, and Demartek, and several members of the Violin leadership team, have all shared their thoughts on the idea that Disk is Dead as a technology for primary storage workloads.

These industry experts have looked at the cost of denying that disk is dead, at the compromises necessary to force a complex, inefficient, expensive, slow HDD-based array to rise to the requirements of today’s typical enterprise data center environment.

They have looked at the anger users feel when reports take too long to run, when analytics aren’t timely, when data protection is inadequate and losses occur. You can follow their arguments on the Violin website; learn from their hard lessons,save time, and position your enterprise for success more quickly than your competition.

“Next generation storage technology solutions can transform data center economics to save real money and open up new business opportunities”

The True Cost of Ownership

We are at the inflection point right now where flash storage offers 10x the performance for less than the cost of comparable HDD-based capabilities. All the data protection, availability, reliability and ease of use issues have been addressed, and people are beginning to realize, from an operating expense perspective, flash is a real bargain.

At the same time, the cost curve for flash, driven mostly by consumer applications and Moore’s Law, is plummeting, expected to drop another 75% per gigabyte sometime in the next two years. While disk has run out of gas technically, flash costs are falling fast and densities are rising geometrically.

From a business perspective, enterprise-grade Flash Storage Platforms are transforming the ability of companies – entire industries, really to grow existing revenue streams, find new ones and make better decisions faster, and transform their competitiveness.

Violin has documented used cases showing flash storage can reduce transaction time in banking environments (more profit), accelerate inventory reporting in retail (more efficiency) and deliver data-oriented billing opportunities– in wireless telco environments (more revenue).

Beyond the opportunities to grow revenue or gain competitive advantage by using flash for primary storage, business leaders are also seeing the significant favorable impact of flash on CapEx and OpEx when disk and the I/O bottleneck is removed.

The True Cost of Ownership savings can be enormous, when all relevant costs are considered. The densities available in flash storage today and the roadmap for tomorrow mean visionary IT leaders,can deliver today’s application performance needs, cut power and cooling costs, consolidate the storage footprint in their data centers, and be well positioned to support data growth for years to come. Be sure to challenge your IT, Facilities and Finance teams to capture all the cost differences at storage refresh time. Some of these savings will cross organizational boundaries.

A Word of Caution

It is also becoming clear to an ever-increasing number of IT leaders that “solid state drive” technology (SSD) is not a simple synonym with “flash” or the best technology implementation for data center applications as the SSD is packaged to look, feel, and act like a legacy disk drive. It is becoming clear that architecture matters.

A purpose built, zero downtime architecture that accesses flash at the individual chip level gives users the benefit of optimized performance, endurance, data protection, efficiency and value. SSD’s while superior in the mobile world, could be dead for enterprise data center applications, like legacy hard disk drives because SSDs hold back the true power of flash by constraining it with the HDD form factor and an ancient disk protocol.

The impact that a carefully thought-out, fully integrated architecture, design and implementation can have on storage availability, reliability, performance and the ability to deliver a complete suite of tightly integrated, highly optimized data protection and data efficiency services simply cannot be overstated.

Technical experts in the organization should carefully evaluate not just the punch list of features, but how those features are implemented in order to accurately assess the potential benefit to your organization.

The Conversation Expands

Chris Mellor, writing in the online publication, The Register, recently put it this way: “Developing proprietary flash cards can lead to lower power budgets, less heat generation, and faster data access times compared to standard SSD or PCIe form factors.”

A recently released IDC White Paper, commissioned by Violin Memory, stated “The company Violin has chosen a custom flash module (CFM) based architecture, and is leveraging the advantages of the visibility this provides at the individual cell level to drive higher performance, better efficiency, and lower cost.”

Perhaps Eric Burgener, Research Director, for the Storage practice at IDC put it best when he said

“AFAs will become the enterprise storage workhorses of record for all tiers of primary applications, as TCO benefits of flash deployment at scale are just too compelling relative to HDD-based platforms.”

Today’s technology leaders get that. Today’s CIO heroes get that.

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