Flash storage gains a foothold in Turkey

Turkish businesses see the benefits of flash storage for high performance apps, but some think the big suppliers dominate

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Awareness of the benefits of flash storage arrays in Turkey has increased over the last few years. And although there is a lack of analyst data on flash storage adoption in Turkey, anecdotal accounts expect continued growth. For now, however, it remains rather a niche market.

That said, across sectors that require low latency and high IOPS (input/output operations per second) rates – such as telecoms, shipping, banking and retail – flash storage systems have already become indispensible.

Flash storage options

Key deployment options for flash storage customers include arrays that combine flash solid state and spinning disk storage, either in purpose-built hybrid flash arrays or with solid state drives retro-fitted to existing array products.

Then there are all-flash arrays. These are often from startup companies that have developed products from the ground up, to ensure device hardware and software is optimised for the speed and special requirements of flash operations, but can also be existing SAN products populated with flash drives.

There are also flash drive products that can be fitted to server hardware, most commonly PCIe format cards that enable speedier operations close to the CPU, but there are also now flash drives that fit into memory DIMM slots on the motherboard, so-called memory channel storage.

Although all-flash arrays can offer access times towards 1 million IOPS, that kind of high performance requirement is very limited and, in Turkey, such systems are demanded by few companies.

Flash storage in Turkey: Benefits and challenges

The major concern of potential customers contemplating the adoption of flash storage systems in Turkey is what performance they will get for the high cost of these systems. So, unless there is certain business justification, many firms are still reluctant to commit to the spending required for flash storage systems.

In addition, some features common in spinning disk arrays, such as replication and snapshots, have been absent in many flash products. This has impeded demand from some companies, even though they need the high performance that flash arrays can offer.

Currently in Turkey, the number of flash storage suppliers with a presence is mostly limited to the big six storage vendors: Dell, HP, NetApp, EMC, Hitachi and IBM.

Due to limited competition in the market, many flash startups are still absent in Turkey. Some think this has resulted in the incumbent international companies holding back from providing state-of-the-art flash systems to the Turkish market.

But there seems no reason not to expect a shift towards a growing and a more competitive market, which will also yield lower costs.

Flash storage systems successfully meet the need for high performance storage, but they are also advantageous because they consume much less energy. With high temperatures and high power prices in Turkey, flash systems offer the possibility of a significant cut in energy expenditure for datacentres.

Also, flash storage systems are more resilient than spinning disk systems and so require less maintenance, which results in another significant cut in the storage budget.

Migros adds Violin to EMC VMAX

Migros Group is one of the largest retail companies in Turkey, with around 1,000 supermarkets across the country. It has deployed a Violin Memory all-flash array (sold by HP at the time) for an application with very high OLTP (online transaction processing) requirements.

Kasa Online is an in-house developed financial system that logs 15 to 20 million transactions per day from store point-of-sale systems. The system requires very high performance and so Migros initially decided to deploy flash storage in PCIe format in its servers.

According to Atilla Özsoylu, general manager for database management at Migros, the company needed the performance of flash to handle high levels of random I/O generated by Kasa Online.

PCIe flash cards were deployed but did not meet the organisation’s needs. The company also tried adding flash drives to its existing EMC VMAX SAN systems, but was not pleased with the performance. Özsoylu says the flash drives underperformed on the VMAX, even compared to Fibre Channel drives.

Eventually Migros looked at an HP/Violin Memory VMA 3205 with 5TB of capacity that can provide in the region of 300,000 IOPS.

Özsoylu says his team tested the performance of the proposed system with a short proof-of-concept period and were happy with it.

“The system offers a high read-write performance. We haven’t had any challenges with the system yet but we prefer to sustain the continuity of our system by backing it up on the SAN rather than another flash array via [Oracle] Data Guard,” he says.

Grid Telekom uses NetApp, but wants more choice

Hakan Akan is general manager of Grid Telekom, a Turkish cloud service provider with datacentres in Ankara, Istanbul and Atlanta, US.

As a cloud datacentre providing services to major news websites and large internet portals, it experiences heavy I/O demand, for which traditional spinning disk storage arrays became a costly option that failed to meet their needs.

It now uses a NetApp EF540 array, an all-flash system that provides I/O performance up to around 300,000 IOPS. It also provides data recovery via snapshots and replication. Though they have been working with NetApp for a while, Akan says the supplier falls behind in offering state-of-the-art flash storage solutions.

He says: “In the case that NetApp keeps underperforming in supplying new products to the market, there will be a significant shift towards other companies. That is a general problem in Turkey; smaller niche companies are absent, so the large companies are not bothered to bring about their latest products.”

On that note, Grid Telekom is considering working with startups such as Nimbus, Solidfire and Skyera.

These cases show that the future for flash storage systems is likely to be one of increasing demand from organisations that want to speed up data storage access.

With the arrival of startups flash arrays suppliers to compete with the established big six, it is expected that the cost of deploying flash storage will decrease and the availability of the best-performing systems will increase.

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