FLASH GAINS GROUND AS ENTERPRISE STORAGE OPTION

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1 FLASH GAINS GROUND AS ENTERPRISE STORAGE OPTION With new management functions placing it closer to parity with hard drives, as well as new economies, flash is gaining traction as a standard media for mainstream storage applications and workloads. CONTENTS: Flash Forward Enterprise Deployment Options Management Chops Transactions = money. Slow or deny an organization the ability to execute transactions, and you ve shut off the revenue spigot. That statement may seem like a no-brainer, yet some businesses are taking real risks. They re not providing the storage I/O performance required in transaction- and performance-oriented applications such as credit card processing, content delivery, big data analytics and more. It s not just revenue at stake. When information can t be delivered in a sufficiently timely fashion to managers, employees, partners or customers, all of the following risks loom large: Lack of insight and the ability to respond quickly to key business drivers. Difficulty predicting financial results. Customer dissatisfaction that imperils revenue, market share and your brand. IT and storage pros must ensure adequate performance for their business-critical apps. But storage performance limited by the speed of traditional storage media simply can t keep pace with the explosion in data, real-time analytics requirements and overall capacity of servers and networks. Flash storage overcomes many limitations of traditional media, but it s not a be-all, end-all solution. Today there are limited cases where corporate IT organizations standardize on flash for a wide variety of reasons although recent technology developments are making

2 that more possible. There are strong arguments in favor of a mixed-technology storage infrastructure where flash plays a key role but works alongside hard disks for optimal performance and price. In this document, we ll lay out the benefits and limitations of flash and how IT can develop an enterprise-level storage strategy that leverages but doesn t rely exclusively on flash. Flash Forward During the past decade, end users and IT pros alike have benefited from a massive increase in the processing capabilities of CPUs that, unfortunately, now outstrip the speed at which hard disk drives can handle data. As a result, fast processors and the bandwidth available within networks to support data transport can be wasted because hard disk drives can t retrieve information fast enough to keep pace. The impact of this dichotomy is felt most when data is being read from a database, since databases carry out more I/O transactions than any other systems in the typical data center. Flash storage offers a number of benefits that address the disparity. Flash is a solid-state device with no moving parts that could break or impede performance. It consumes a fraction of the power of spinning disks. Flash uses high-speed controller technology to minimize latency and maximize the bandwidth that can be used to fulfill requests for data and storage. Flash can take the form of a single solid-state drive in a laptop or server, or a hybrid drive that contains both a conventional hard disk and a flash memory module. It is as fast as dynamic RAM in read-access times. It offers mechanical shock resistance, which explains its popularity in portable devices and ultra-light laptops, as well as its durability. Its size and complexity range from USB drives at the low end to enterprise-class, array-based memory systems for data center environments. Most flash systems are composed of a memory unit that stores data, and a controller that manages access to available storage space. While the speed of data access (reads) is notably higher with flash when compared with hard disks, write speeds are lower than their mechanical counterparts, especially in the flash devices typically sold to enterprises. This is one reason, in addition to historical cost differences, that organizations must carefully select and provision data for this storage medium. In many cases, it s not practical to operate in an all-flash environment although that is beginning to change. Enterprise Deployment Options As enterprise IT organizations consider the performance and reliability benefits of flash for their most demanding applications, there are a number of available enterprise implementations optimized for workload, performance and economy. 2

3 Flash-optimized arrays: Some flash technology is deployed in arrays that are primarily disk-based to accelerate performance on subsets of data that require flash performance. That s a nod to the fact that most data doesn t need to be stored on flash. A flash-optimized array can move data between hard disks and flash as needed, to ensure that it is residing on the most cost- and performance-effective medium. An alternative to flash built into an array is flash in an appliance that sits outside the array. In either scenario, flash functions as a front end for hot data needing maximum performance. Flash-enabled storage virtualization: Let s acknowledge an important bit of reality: When it comes time to refresh or upgrade infrastructure, enterprise IT organizations are neither willing nor able to wipe the storage slate clean and start all over with the highest-performing media. In practice, they need to extend the life of existing storage where possible, getting the most value while adding enhancements to optimize performance. One way to do that is to manage flash as part of virtualized storage infrastructure. Virtualization will enable a common set of services across all storage platforms that it supports, including flash. A robust and flexible implementation of virtualization, moreover, will move just segments of data to flash storage to maximize efficiency in how the premium-priced storage is used. Shared flash-only devices: Some data sets have such intensive performance requirements that no latency can be tolerated. That scenario can be addressed by giving multiple servers shared access to highperformance storage, but the approach doesn t give access to additional management intelligence, such as that provided by virtualization. The overall goal of leveraging flash in the enterprise is to enable the use of high-performance technologies where it makes the most sense, given the requirements of an application or workload. This requires intelligent use of flash at key points, including in the server and the network as well as on the storage array, with the goal of moving data to the right location at the right time even when that movement takes place across storage systems from multiple technology vendors. Management Chops While the majority of enterprise storage installations isn t all-flash today, storage suppliers are driving forward with features that create a higher level of parity between flash and traditional storage architectures that could put flash closer to IT s sweet spot. An all-flash architecture delivers predictable, robust performance, and overcomes the need to worry about tier or cache misses that cause data to be served from hard disk. But hard disks have clear strengths that haven t historically been available in flash: tiering, data protection/high-availability features, thin provisioning and writeable snapshots. To understand the importance of tiering, consider the growth in virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), which can introduce burdensome storage management considerations if not addressed proactively. Hybrid storage arrays 3

4 are beginning to support automated tiering that can place frequently accessed desktop virtual machine images on low-latency flash for maximum performance. Less-frequently accessed data, such as end-user app files, are placed on low-cost, high-capacity hard disks, enabling organizations to meet VDI performance demands without overprovisioning higher-cost storage. Seasoned pros recognize that reliability and availability are as critical to an overall storage strategy as meeting the extreme performance demands of transactional apps. Robust flash implementations address this requirement with features associated with traditional storage architectures. That includes support for various levels of RAID for redundancy and maximum reliability, including preferred RAID versions for I/O-intensive applications such as databases. Further advancing flash s reliability, some manufacturers are leveraging the best of technologies called singlelevel cell (SLC) and multi-level cell (MLC). SLC can last five to 10 times longer than MLC and perform writes two to three times faster. Writes cause storage devices to wear out, so being able to leverage SLCs is an important consideration. Lower-cost MLC flash is used primarily for reads in such configurations. One of the key differences between the two technologies is the amount of data stored per cell: SLC stores 1 bit, MLC stores more than 1. Other manageability strengths of hard disks thin provisioning, writeable snapshots are increasingly available in solid-state flash devices, moving the storage types closer to the level of functional parity, whereas flash didn t previously offer these features. In certain cases, robust, enterprise-class features are being delivered at newly aggressive pricing levels that have vendors and independent observers touting flash at the price of disk. As the flash supplier community continues to deliver on that objective, enterprises stand to benefit with highspeed, affordable storage, whether they go all-flash or retain a blended storage infrastructure. About Micron Business moves at lightning speeds. Your storage solutions should be fast enough to keep pace because how quickly you store and access your critical data can mean the difference between success and failure. Your enterprise applications require constant uptime, high throughput, power efficiency and high reliability, and are too important to spin on generations-old technology. Instead, achieve success and power your mission-critical applications such as database management, virtualization, big data and content delivery solutions with next generation SSDs built from the ground up by Micron, a trusted storage manufacturer. Micron SSD customers have the assurance of working with the world s leader in NAND Flash design. Our expertise in NAND technology sets us apart as a vertically integrated supplier with the unique ability to ensure end-to-end quality and to optimize our SSDs for our NAND components. Our rigorous product testing translates 4

5 to predictably reliable, high-quality drives. From component design to fabrication to the finished package device, our stringent quality requirements, significant investments in SSD test equipment, and advanced NAND management algorithms mean that reliability is literally built into every drive. If your workload demands unmatched performance, superior reliability and best-in-class features, then Micron has the SSD for you. Visit or contact your Micron representative to eradicate performance bottlenecks and meet critical speed requirements while managing TCO with high-performance, ultra-low latency SSDs. Products are warranted only to meet Micron s production data sheet specifications. Products and specifications are subject to change without notice. The information contained herein is provided on an as is basis without warranties of any kind. TechTarget 2015 Micron and the Micron logo are trademarks of Micron Technology, Inc. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners Micron Technology, Inc. All rights reserved. 1/15 5

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