Welcome!

Agile Computing Authors: Liz McMillan, ManageEngine IT Matters, Craig Lowell, AppNeta Blog, Jonathan Fries

Related Topics: Containers Expo Blog, Java IoT, Linux Containers, Agile Computing, @CloudExpo, SDN Journal

Containers Expo Blog: Article

The Future Is Now: Why Flash Storage Will Transform the Data Center

By using software-defined storage, data center architects can design a flexible, efficient and powerful framework

For an example of just how dramatically storage has changed over the past fifteen years, consider your music collection. At one point, you had a collection of cassettes that stored the song files on tape. As the years went on, your hairstyle changed and you bought a CD player that used a spinning disk to store more song data at a higher quality than tape could. Spinning disks flourished well into the MP3 player era, surviving even the initial introduction of flash storage due to its competitive cost. Eventually, however, your newest smartphone or iPod shipped with flash storage instead, as manufacturers bowed to its improved performance over disk storage and its increasingly competitive price point.

This is an example of a sea change taking place at a much bigger scale as well. Instead of gigabytes, think petabytes.

The data center infrastructures designed by telcos, service providers and major enterprises to store massive quantities of data have lately used predominantly disk storage in their servers, sometimes blending in flash storage for performance-intensive tasks. While the speed and performance of flash storage has tempted data center architects to deploy it more widely throughout the data center, it has only been recently that the price of flash has decreased enough to make its broader use a viable option.

To understand why flash storage has suddenly become a practical choice for data center architects across industries, it is helpful to examine the differences between flash and disk storage.

The Next Big Thing, Again
As the example above shows, when it was introduced, disk storage represented leaps and bounds of progress in speed and efficiency compared to tape storage, the predominant method of the time. Even after flash was introduced to the market, disk storage remained the server architecture of choice. Flash did deliver substantially higher performance, but was priced too high to ever present a real threat to the prevalence of spinning disks. In addition, flash drives were smaller in capacity and not able to store as much data per unit as spinning disks at the same value.

However, new improvements in flash have slashed its price significantly, positioning it as a true data center hardware alternative whose benefits - speed in throughput and latency - have dramatically increased at the same time. As an added plus, flash is highly energy efficient, needing only a fraction of the power needed by disk storage, sometimes at the ratio of one to 16. Flash drives still break down at a faster rate than does disk storage, but its boosts in performance and drop in price in recent years have made flash a realistic and highly attractive option for data center architecture and design needs.

Making the Switch
In fact, it's increasingly feasible that today's data center - still reliant on disk storage - could use 100 percent flash storage tomorrow. Telcos, service providers, major enterprises and other major companies whose profits are tied to the speed and availability they can provide to their customer base, are beginning to look at flash storage's blistering performance as less of a "nice to have" option and more of a core technology necessary to maintaining a competitive edge.

While the high-performance-demanding industries of telco and service providers are diving into flash straight away, vendors in other vertical markets have made cost-benefit calculations and have elected to hold back until the price of flash storage drops even further. For example, a Dropbox-style file hosting service for consumer cloud storage isn't as likely to be motivated by fast performance as it would be with ensuring the availability of cheap storage at scale. Companies like these are making the usual tradeoff in storage: finding a comfortable place between price and capacity. However, when the price of flash finally descends to that of disk storage, the last barrier will be removed for those companies that want to remain competitive. When this last milestone finally happens, the market shift will be as significant as when disks replaced tape storage by beating it on the same markers: higher performance and better pricing.

Advancements in Software
One of the trends making this shift possible is that of software-defined storage. By adopting a software-defined approach to storage infrastructure, organizations have the flexibility to deploy flash storage throughout their data center architectures quickly and easily.

As background, the concept of software-defined storage seeks to move functions and features from the hardware layer to the software layer. This approach removes the dependence on expensive and annoying redundancies that solve issues based in the hardware layer. Data center architects must also plan for the inevitable failure of hardware. Flash storage, in particular, currently has a faster time-to-failure rate than disk does. In storage environments that don't use RAID cards, the failure of a disk prompts an error that will impact the end-user's experience. To solve this, architects will build in expensive and redundant RAID cards to hide the errors. By using the right software-defined strategy, these problems can be absorbed and made invisible to the end user. Since software-defined storage is hardware-agnostic, it can run on any hardware configuration.

There are a number of additional benefits that telcos and service provider data center architects can achieve by combining software-defined storage with flash hardware. For instance, the organization could still utilize a single name space spanning all its storage nodes if it were to use a software-defined storage approach. In addition, it could also run applications in the storage nodes as well, creating new "compustorage" nodes instead. As a result, the storage hardware wouldn't need to be big or costly, but could still have very high performance and speed. Organizations can start with a small number of cheap servers instead of building a large, expensive and traditional installation, and still scale linearly as needed.

Flash Assets
Benefits of a software-defined approach to an all-flash data center are:

  • Huge performance improvement through the ability to use the faster flash technology throughout the data center.
  • Lower power consumption means that SSDs reduce running costs, generating far less heat than a spinning disk and requiring less energy for cooling.
  • SSDs deliver a smaller footprint in the data center. Since SSDs are much smaller than spinning disks, they require less space and less real estate to house them.
  • Running more applications on the same hardware, due to hardware performance gains.

Conclusion
Even as many of us still listen to CDs in the car, the music industry is inevitably shifting to a new paradigm built on music files saved on flash storage. The trend is repeating across industries, but nowhere as dramatically as it is in the data center. Flash storage - with its extreme performance, efficient energy usage and increasingly competitive cost - will eventually become the industry status quo. By using software-defined storage, data center architects can design a flexible, efficient and powerful framework for telcos, service providers and major enterprises looking to get the most powerful and energy-efficient data center possible by using all flash.

More Stories By Stefan Bernbo

Stefan Bernbo is the founder and CEO of Compuverde. For 20 years, he has designed and built numerous enterprise scale data storage solutions designed to be cost effective for storing huge data sets. From 2004 to 2010 Stefan worked within this field for Storegate, the wide-reaching Internet based storage solution for consumer and business markets, with the highest possible availability and scalability requirements. Previously, Stefan has worked with system and software architecture on several projects with Swedish giant Ericsson, the world-leading provider of telecommunications equipment and services to mobile and fixed network operators.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
Everyone knows that truly innovative companies learn as they go along, pushing boundaries in response to market changes and demands. What's more of a mystery is how to balance innovation on a fresh platform built from scratch with the legacy tech stack, product suite and customers that continue to serve as the business' foundation. In his General Session at 19th Cloud Expo, Michael Chambliss, Head of Engineering at ReadyTalk, discussed why and how ReadyTalk diverted from healthy revenue and mor...
We are always online. We access our data, our finances, work, and various services on the Internet. But we live in a congested world of information in which the roads were built two decades ago. The quest for better, faster Internet routing has been around for a decade, but nobody solved this problem. We’ve seen band-aid approaches like CDNs that attack a niche's slice of static content part of the Internet, but that’s it. It does not address the dynamic services-based Internet of today. It does...
The 20th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Containers, Microservices and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportunity. Submit your speaking proposal ...
You have great SaaS business app ideas. You want to turn your idea quickly into a functional and engaging proof of concept. You need to be able to modify it to meet customers' needs, and you need to deliver a complete and secure SaaS application. How could you achieve all the above and yet avoid unforeseen IT requirements that add unnecessary cost and complexity? You also want your app to be responsive in any device at any time. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Mark Allen, General Manager of...
Major trends and emerging technologies – from virtual reality and IoT, to Big Data and algorithms – are helping organizations innovate in the digital era. However, to create real business value, IT must think beyond the ‘what’ of digital transformation to the ‘how’ to harness emerging trends, innovation and disruption. Architecture is the key that underpins and ties all these efforts together. In the digital age, it’s important to invest in architecture, extend the enterprise footprint to the cl...
Bert Loomis was a visionary. This general session will highlight how Bert Loomis and people like him inspire us to build great things with small inventions. In their general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Harold Hannon, Architect at IBM Bluemix, and Michael O'Neill, Strategic Business Development at Nvidia, discussed the accelerating pace of AI development and how IBM Cloud and NVIDIA are partnering to bring AI capabilities to "every day," on-demand. They also reviewed two "free infrastructure" pr...
Connected devices and the industrial internet are growing exponentially every year with Cisco expecting 50 billion devices to be in operation by 2020. In this period of growth, location-based insights are becoming invaluable to many businesses as they adopt new connected technologies. Knowing when and where these devices connect from is critical for a number of scenarios in supply chain management, disaster management, emergency response, M2M, location marketing and more. In his session at @Th...
"Dice has been around for the last 20 years. We have been helping tech professionals find new jobs and career opportunities," explained Manish Dixit, VP of Product and Engineering at Dice, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 19th Cloud Expo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
What happens when the different parts of a vehicle become smarter than the vehicle itself? As we move toward the era of smart everything, hundreds of entities in a vehicle that communicate with each other, the vehicle and external systems create a need for identity orchestration so that all entities work as a conglomerate. Much like an orchestra without a conductor, without the ability to secure, control, and connect the link between a vehicle’s head unit, devices, and systems and to manage the ...
"We're a cybersecurity firm that specializes in engineering security solutions both at the software and hardware level. Security cannot be an after-the-fact afterthought, which is what it's become," stated Richard Blech, Chief Executive Officer at Secure Channels, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
In addition to all the benefits, IoT is also bringing new kind of customer experience challenges - cars that unlock themselves, thermostats turning houses into saunas and baby video monitors broadcasting over the internet. This list can only increase because while IoT services should be intuitive and simple to use, the delivery ecosystem is a myriad of potential problems as IoT explodes complexity. So finding a performance issue is like finding the proverbial needle in the haystack.
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, provided an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life sett...
The WebRTC Summit New York, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, announces that its Call for Papers is now open. Topics include all aspects of improving IT delivery by eliminating waste through automated business models leveraging cloud technologies. WebRTC Summit is co-located with 20th International Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo. WebRTC is the future of browser-to-browser communications, and continues to make inroads into the traditional, difficult, plug-in web ...
20th Cloud Expo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy.
Internet-of-Things discussions can end up either going down the consumer gadget rabbit hole or focused on the sort of data logging that industrial manufacturers have been doing forever. However, in fact, companies today are already using IoT data both to optimize their operational technology and to improve the experience of customer interactions in novel ways. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Gordon Haff, Red Hat Technology Evangelist, will share examples from a wide range of industries – includin...
WebRTC is the future of browser-to-browser communications, and continues to make inroads into the traditional, difficult, plug-in web communications world. The 6th WebRTC Summit continues our tradition of delivering the latest and greatest presentations within the world of WebRTC. Topics include voice calling, video chat, P2P file sharing, and use cases that have already leveraged the power and convenience of WebRTC.
"We build IoT infrastructure products - when you have to integrate different devices, different systems and cloud you have to build an application to do that but we eliminate the need to build an application. Our products can integrate any device, any system, any cloud regardless of protocol," explained Peter Jung, Chief Product Officer at Pulzze Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Data is the fuel that drives the machine learning algorithmic engines and ultimately provides the business value. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Ed Featherston, director/senior enterprise architect at Collaborative Consulting, will discuss the key considerations around quality, volume, timeliness, and pedigree that must be dealt with in order to properly fuel that engine.
"Once customers get a year into their IoT deployments, they start to realize that they may have been shortsighted in the ways they built out their deployment and the key thing I see a lot of people looking at is - how can I take equipment data, pull it back in an IoT solution and show it in a dashboard," stated Dave McCarthy, Director of Products at Bsquare Corporation, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
IoT is rapidly changing the way enterprises are using data to improve business decision-making. In order to derive business value, organizations must unlock insights from the data gathered and then act on these. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Eric Hoffman, Vice President at EastBanc Technologies, and Peter Shashkin, Head of Development Department at EastBanc Technologies, discussed how one organization leveraged IoT, cloud technology and data analysis to improve customer experiences and effici...