The relatively higher cost of flash storage arrays per gigabyte has kept their use somewhat limited compared to traditional hard disk drive storage. It made sense to use flash when the increased speed outweighed the increased cost. Now that the cost of flash storage has come down to competitive levels—flash now costs less than $1.50/GB—costs shouldn't prevent companies from adopting flash. Those companies that still hesitate should think about these additional benefits of flash storage arrays, which go far beyond simply speed and can fully transform a business's data center and operational processes.
1. Reduced total cost of ownership
The initial cash outlay to purchase storage devices is only a small part of the total cost of owning the devices. Flash storage arrays don't require the same physical space as disk drives. According to Hewlett Packard Enterprise, the deduplication features of flash reduce space requirements by up to 80%, with a quarter rack of flash storage arrays offering the same capacity as four racks of disk. As a result, there are fewer racks taking up space in the data center, which results in reduced power and cooling expenses. Software licensing costs are reduced as well. Data centers can even reduce or better use their operations staff, because the storage management process is simplified.
2. Increased reliability
Because there are no moving parts in flash, there are greatly lowered chances of mechanical failure, borne out by stress tests showing lower failure rates for flash. Flash storage arrays are also less sensitive to environmental factors, including temperature and moisture levels, meaning that data centers can widen their environmental control settings. The availability levels of flash can reach 99.9999%.
3. Simpler capacity management
Companies need to buy sufficient capacity not only for their current needs, but to handle anticipated future growth as well. Flash storage arrays are easily expandable, with both scale-up and scale-out approaches. In some products, additional capacity is added simply through additional licensing, meaning that there's no need to wait for physical delivery of memory and no disruption required to install and activate it.
4. More reliable applications
Making backups takes less time, meaning that end users don't experience degraded performance or application downtime in their applications as a result. Because databases can be shared more effectively, fewer copies of databases are required, meaning that information isn't duplicated and the risk of inconsistent data in different systems is reduced.
5. Faster software development
Flash storage arrays make it easy to take a database snapshot, meaning that everyone involved in software development can work from a current test version of the database. Because of this better access, plus improved responsiveness, one financial services company saw developer productivity double. Because flash requires fewer physical copies of data, it becomes possible to combine operational database storage with analytical databases used for business intelligence reporting, reducing the delays due to extract, transform, and load data warehouse processes.
6. Increased profitability
Managing loads on disk in order to provide necessary performance sometimes forces companies to limit when certain functionality can be run. By using flash storage, the improved throughput and increased performance remove this limitation. One company cited a 30% increase in revenue due to the ability to access modules without restrictions.
Most data centers will continue to combine flash with other storage media; for non-active data, disk or even tape storage may be adequate. For active data, though, especially highly active data, companies will continue moving to flash. Gartner predicts all-flash arrays will handle 15 percent to 25 percent of mission-critical data by 2018. For value-added resellers, understanding and demonstrating the benefits of flash storage arrays will increase their opportunities for selling to big data customers.