Flash Arrays or Spinning Disks: Why Not Both?

When the Hybrid Approach Is the Best Approach

Kurt Hildebrand

Both flash and traditional spinning disk drives have to perform the same job. So what’s the difference, and why would you choose one over the other as you migrate to a modern storage environment? Read on for the benefits of each – and what combining them could do for your storage infrastructure.

For decades, companies have relied on traditional high-capacity spinning disks for their storage devices. In contrast, flash disks have no moving parts and are available in much smaller capacities, but they provide dramatically faster access to information since they have no moving parts.

Flash provides IT with choice when modernizing an organization’s storage environment. Storage modernization can allow the enterprise to increase storage capacity, reduce the cost per gigabyte and increase the overall data center performance. But while flash storage provides significant advantages over spinning disks in performance, it is still more expensive to buy and flash drives offer less capacity than spinning disk drives.

When deploying flash arrays in your environment, the decisions therefore come down to capacity, cost, and performance. If capacity or cost are your primary decision factors, select traditional spinning disks; if increasing performance is your primary selection criteria deploy flash arrays.

But there’s another option, and it’s the one most commonly deployed by enterprises today. Consider implementing hybrid-flash disk array. In this scenario, a small number of extremely high-performance disks are paired with cost-effective, extremely high-capacity spinning disks and accompanying software. The end result is a storage solution that delivers high performance and high capacity at a lower cost per I/O and per gigabyte stored than traditional spinning disk arrays.

In a modern storage environment, it’s key to select the right technology for the business and application requirements. Flash arrays deliver high performance but lower capacity, and although flash storage costs continue to decline, they still typically cost more than the alternative. Flash arrays are ideal for applications that don’t require high capacity but require high performance levels, such as desktop virtualization deployments.

Hybrid-flash disk arrays are more popular today because they leverage existing spinning drive storage platforms to support capacity requirements while allowing the enterprise to cost-effectively add flash arrays to support the performance demands of critical applications.

This best of both worlds approach provides IT with the opportunity to carefully plan deployments to increase both capacity and performance while effectively managing costs. Hybrid-flash is typically a good fit for enterprise-class applications that require both high-capacity and fast performance, such as Online Transaction Processing and data warehousing applications.

Flash arrays play an important role in modernizing today’s storage environments, and knowing when to deploy flash or hybrid storage solutions and knowing which storage products are the best fits for your deployment are major challenges facing IT.

Working with vendor-neutral consultants current with available storage solutions and use cases positions IT to navigate the many options for deploying flash arrays in a modern storage environment so you can make the right choices when it comes down to strategic decisions about capacity, cost and performance. For more flash array deployment information, check out the podcast Flash Versus Traditional Storage.

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