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How a flexible, cost-efficient flash storage solution helps support data insights

By Al Perlman

One of the biggest opportunities for organisations of all sizes is to capture the data they are creating, along with data being generated in public venues such as social media, and apply analytics to it to inform and inspire decision making. The business innovations made possible by such insights are why consulting firm McKinsey & Co. has called big data “the next frontier for innovation, competition and productivity.”

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In order for organisations to transform data into insight, however, the underlying technology infrastructure has to be up to the task. In particular, data analytics puts enormous strain on the storage infrastructure in terms of both capacity and performance. In analytics-based workloads, the storage infrastructure is typically dealing with a massive amount of data, as well as the need to deliver unprecedented performance levels in IOPS, throughput and latency, levels that stretch beyond the capabilities of traditional rotating hard disk drive (HDD) storage systems. The closer the organisation can come to delivering analytics in real time, the more innovative it can be in delivering enhanced insight to decision makers, employees and customers. So it is all about turning data into insights to make the right business decisions.

The answer to the storage challenges posed by data analytics is to deploy a storage solution that seamlessly combines the performance benefits of flash technology along with the capacity benefits of traditional HDDs. Flash is absolutely critical in addressing the IOPS challenges of data analytics, and for some environments and workloads, an all-flash solution is required. At some point, however, the hot data of big data analytics will become cold data and will need to move to a lower storage tier and, eventually, to an archive. So the ideal solution for analytics is one that allows the organisation to deploy all-flash storage where necessary, but also have an architecture that supports hybrid-flash as well as HDD-based storage.

While performance and capacity are important challenges, costs, scalability and manageability are also critical factors. Costs are particularly important because most all-flash storage solutions remain extremely expensive, often prohibitively so. This is where innovations from Dell are delivering breakthrough value, making analytics far more cost efficient for all enterprises.

Dell offers flash-optimised solutions that include all-flash and hybrid-flash arrays that deliver industry-leading price-per-IOPS performance. Because of the IOPS challenges involved in data analytics, cost per IOPS is a far more appropriate price/performance metric than the traditional cost per gigabyte. Dell’s cost per IOPS delivers a five-time price advantage over competitive all-flash configurations. Dell has been able to achieve this significant advantage by combining advances in flash solid-state drives (SSD) with improvements in its advanced storage tiering software.

It is also delivering innovation in scalability and manageability through an approach that combines flash (or SSDs) and HDD storage in a single architecture. Within this architecture, Dell customers have the option of using all-flash storage for big data analytics, along with hybrid-flash and HDD-based storage. Automated tiering moves data within the storage infrastructure so that each disk is used to maximum efficiency. A scale-out architecture means IT can modularly and seamlessly add new controllers and arrays to increase capacity without impacting the performance of existing applications, and without disrupting the storage arrays already in place.

Data analytics, or better data insights, as part of big data are clearly part of the future of all enterprise compute environments. Within every industry, innovative organisations are seeing the advantage of taking raw data from disparate sources and applying real-time analytics to enable more informed, faster and much better decision-making. With flash-optimised storage solutions from Dell, the future is now.

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