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Demand rises for low-cost flash storage across Australia

Flash storage gains popularity in Australia, as smaller organisations are attracted by lower prices and higher capacity

Demand for flash storage is rising swiftly across Australia – and emerging from some unlikely quarters.

Besides the usual suspects such as banking and finance, a slew of local councils, schools and even a 250-seat law firm are among the latest Australian organisations to embrace flash rather than more conventional storage systems.

Josh Rubens, a partner in Deloitte’s cloud and infrastructure services unit, said he has seen 50 clients recently adopt flash as a result of the “perfect storm” affecting conventional storage companies as the price of flash dropped and the capacity increased.

“Enterprise grade flash drives with 1.6-2TB are now pretty close in price to hybrid arrays. They are not quite at parity, but close enough given you can future-proof the organisation,” he said.

“People used to buy flash only for a big Oracle database, and they were banks or the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). Now mid-market companies are buying flash too.”

Lydie Virollet, Sydney-based IDC analyst, said large traditional storage suppliers such as EMC, IBM, HPE or NetApp, which also offer hybrid flash products, have been challenged by smaller players such as Nimble Storage, Violin Memory, Tintri or Pure Storage. This has brought down the cost of all-flash arrays.

“Performance is definitely the key driver for flash adoption in Australia, since flash arrays offer low latency, high throughput and consistency,” she said.

In addition, the plug-and-play capability of some flash products along with the smaller device footprint is attractive to users with limited internal IT skills.

Read more about storage in Australia and New Zealand

Virollet added: “Cost remains an inhibitor to the adoption, although we have seen a tremendous drop in the cost of flash. This makes dedicated application deployment still dominant, although most enterprises are in the process of moving more workloads to all-flash arrays.”

Bede Hackney, ANZ managing director of Nimble Storage, said that users were keen to reduce costs and make use of more efficient storage configurations. He said flash was particularly attractive to smaller organisations with limited IT resources, as there was no need for specialised storage skills.

Nimble has recently deployed its systems at Banyule City Council, City of Yarra, East Gippsland Shire Council, Mansfield Shire Council and Maroondah City Council.

“Performance is definitely the key driver for flash adoption in Australia, since flash arrays offer low latency, high throughput and consistency”
Lydie Virollet, IDC

Hackney said that three years ago there was probably a threefold difference in price between all-flash and traditional storage arrays, but that has now dropped to around 25% in some cases. He called this acceptable given the performance flash promised, along with the significantly reduced footprint of flash devices.

Rubens stressed there were still applications where flash made less sense, however: “If you’re looking for cheap and deep archive capacity, and if there isn’t much performance required, it makes less sense to go to all-flash.”

He said potential buyers needed to ensure the applications they were seeking to run were optimised for flash. “Some applications can only use 10% of flash,” he added.

Rubens pointed out that organisations should also do proper due diligence on some of the claims of flash suppliers, particularly around deduplication and the longevity of the storage systems.

Read more on Flash storage and solid-state drives (SSDs)

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