When we surveyed several hundred IT professionals on the topic of All-Flash Arrays, one thing that came out was just how broad was the chasm in thinking between those whose organisations already owned and used AFAs, and those who did not.
Most current AFA users were positive about the technology’s value, both to the wider business and to IT specifically. However, non-users were much more likely to be cautious or even sceptical about the strategic value and operational benefits of AFA.
We also found that these two groups had quite different ideas of which business workloads work well on AFAs. For those with no direct experience, the top target workloads were database applications and virtual servers, both of which were thoroughly hyped up in the early days of AFA, of course.
Once again, familiarity with the technology had a robust effect: the experienced group were using AFAs to support a much broader range of workloads. As well as databases and VMs, they included online transaction processing, mobile apps and services, virtual desktops, big data, and real-time analytics.
Going beyond simple workload suitability, we also asked about using AFAs to enable business and IT transformation. Here, we were thinking about those changes that derive from Flash working differently from disk, such as its ability to deliver consistent performance and reliable quality of service. The majority of those with direct experience agreed that AFAs were a strategic enabler for both business and IT transformation, while those without direct experience were rather more cautious.
We were also thinking about the way AFAs bring more opportunities for automation, and sure enough the second most significant benefit reported in our survey was that they need less management and tuning. As well as the opportunity to free up skills and redeploy them to create real business value, this also implies less downtime resulting from ‘human errors’.
Of course, we didn’t know exactly why the non-users were non-users. It could be they were indeed sceptical of AFA’s value, or perhaps they simply couldn’t get the budget, hadn’t had a trigger to change, or thought that their applications weren’t appropriate for Flash storage. The result was the same though – actual experience is key to understanding the possibilities of the technology, and they didn’t have that experience, hence the awareness chasm.
There may also be an element of ignorance and working on outdated information. Not everyone is aware of how fast AFA technology has evolved over the last couple of years from the niche-oriented first generation systems, or of how quickly its effective price per GB has fallen. As a result, there is still some residual uncertainty and doubt about the enterprise relevance of Flash – doubt which our experienced users tell us is largely unwarranted today.
Either way, our research shows that, when it comes to understanding and achieving the potential of AFA, experience is a massive help. Once you have worked with it, you ‘get’ it.
But as the saying goes, there’s a first time for everything, and even if you don’t have direct experience to help you, you can still bridge that chasm and build a good business case. Reading our report (it’s free to download) will help when it comes to understanding just how many of your applications could benefit, for instance, as will talking to those who have already gone along the AFA route.
Then it’s careful planning, of course. Put that business case together, profile and test your apps – that’s a key tip from our experienced users – and make sure you choose a supplier with good post-sales support and the ability to advise on best practices.
And if you’re trying to sell the idea of investing in AFA to someone else in your organisation, remember that they might well have a rather distorted idea of what it’s good for!