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Affordable and enterprise-ready flash storage addresses performance challenges

By Al Perlman

IT decision makers are under pressure to improve the speed and responsiveness of their applications and, thus, the underlying infrastructure. Today’s systems need to be able to process more transactions more quickly, they need to support the increased capacity and performance demands of highly virtualised infrastructures, and they need to have the flexibility to handle mixed-workload environments.

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One of the stumbling blocks to delivering on the performance requirements of modern applications is the physical limitations of traditional rotating hard disk drive (HDD) storage systems. Simply put, HDDs cannot deliver the I/O performance requirements of many of today’s workloads and are typically a bottleneck within the IT infrastructure.

For years, IT leaders have looked at flash storage (or solid-state drives) as a potential solution to the performance limitations of HDDs, but they haven’t been able to deploy flash to a widespread extent. Why not? Two main reasons:

  • Costs. Until recently, flash has been cost-prohibitive, even taking into consideration the performance gains it can deliver. While flash storage can deliver up to 100 times the performance of HDDs, flash solutions have typically been about 10 times more expensive to deploy.
  • Enterprise-readiness. It’s one thing for flash technology to be used in consumer devices; it’s quite another for flash to be used as a solution for enterprise applications. It has taken time for vendors to get their flash solutions to the point where they offer the reliability, resilience, durability and robust set of features expected by enterprises. In fact, many of today’s solutions are still not quite ready for the enterprise.

Dell has redefined the economics of enterprise storage by bringing flash to the masses through a series of innovations that enables it to offer flash at the price of disk—not in terms of capacity, but where it counts most: in performance. When you look at costs measured in IOPS per gigabyte, Dell flash solutions are not only comparable in price to HDD solutions, but they are also typically one-fifth the price of competitive all-flash solutions and half the price of competitive hybrid solutions.

In addition, Dell has addressed the enterprise-readiness challenges of flash by adding it to its existing storage solutions, thus using the same architecture for flash and HDDs. This enables Dell to offer advanced enterprise features and functions such as automated tiering, thin provisioning, replication and unified file and block storage. It also means Dell’s flash solutions are part of an enterprise-tested architecture that offers simplified manageability of flash and HDD in a single platform.

By successfully addressing the cost, reliability and manageability challenges of flash, Dell enables its customers to utilise flash for workloads and applications that will derive the most benefit from the added performance that flash can deliver. These include:

  • Highly transactional, data-intensive workloads with random I/O, such as online transaction processing systems, e-commerce websites, ATM machines and other applications where real-time responsiveness is required.
  • Data warehousing and big data analytics, where quick response time and low latency are required.
  • Highly virtualised environments, where flash can address the challenges of the so-called I/O blender effect, whereby random I/O keeps multiplying to the point where traditional HDD systems can’t keep up.
  • Virtual desktop infrastructure, where flash can be used to handle spikes in demand caused by boot storms.

Flash won’t be the solution for all workloads. That’s one of the reasons why Dell has incorporated flash with HDD: so customers can have systems in place that can store the right data, at the right place, at the right time, at the right cost.

Now that flash is both affordable and enterprise-ready, the time has come for all enterprises to consider flash as a vital component within their storage infrastructures. Your most important applications are demanding it, and your users and customers will see an immediate positive impact.

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