Flash: More Data, Faster Access

With the need for high-speed access to large amounts of data reaching a crescendo, and the cost of flash memory steadily falling, it is time to examine new approaches to storage, including hybrid-flash and all-flash arrays.

Big data, regulatory compliance, and increased security scrutiny have contributed to storage-related issues such as data sprawl and long-term data retention needs. This has placed a huge and ever growing data management burden on business and IT departments. You need to devise a strategy to safeguard your business and customer data, and improve overall operational efficiency while reducing costs. When considering your informational resources strategy, one technology that needs to take center stage is flash storage.

Flash, or solid-state drive (SSD) storage, has been around long enough for us to know the benefits. It’s super-fast, extremely reliable, and the lack of moving parts means it’s less susceptible to failure. However, there are some issues that need to be considered. For example, cost-per-gigabyte is still an issue when compared to other types of volatile storage, such as spinning hard disk drives. Additionally, flash has a finite limitation to the number of program-erase (PE) cycles it can endure. In other words, each read/write block on a flash-based device can only be written to and erased a certain number of times. However, modern disk controllers employ algorithms to perform wear leveling, spreading writes evenly across flash-based media to avoid the PE cycle issue.

As flash storage speed and reliability go up, cost decreases, and new techniques are employed to work around the PE cycle constraint, flash should be emerging as a key component of your data storage strategy.

Hybrid Drive Technology

Hybrid drives combine flash storage with traditional hard drive technology to overcome related cost issues and provide higher capacity, while adding the speed of flash drives. The flash-based portion of the hybrid drive acts as a high-speed, reliable cache for data stored on the hard drive. Algorithms keep most frequently used data on the flash drive longer to provide faster access times. Additionally, being flash based, the cache isn’t susceptible to power-related failures.

Hybrid drive implementations include a dual-drive hybrid configuration (where a separate flash drive is added to a system with a hard drive working together through software), and a solid-state hybrid drive with flash and HD built as one integrated unit. The deciding factor between the two is not only price/performance, but also whether you have existing HD-based systems that can benefit from bolting on flash technology.

Consider a multi-pronged strategy of all-flash, and a combination of the two hybrid flash technologies available, to get on the mainstream flash bandwagon today for all of your storage needs. However, as the price/performance value ratio rapidly moves in your favor, you certainly want to plan now for an all-flash enterprise storage solution in the near future, and for backup solutions beginning now.

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