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Flash developments shift best-use storage mix for healthcare data

There is no one-size-fits-all answer on what the perfect storage media mix would look like, and as SSD prices drop while HDD capacities increase, the way storage solutions are built will continue to evolve.

Jeff Rowe | Nov 07, 2017 12:00 am

With the explosion of data threatening to overwhelm IT storage systems across most sectors of the economy, including in healthcare, perhaps the most pressing question managers face is, “What kind of storage should we be using?”

The answer, for better or worse, depends on what kind of data you’re talking about.  In a recent column, Andy Dean, HPC Businesses Development Manager at OCF, a UK-based data storage provider, focused on what he dubbed “storage hardware at a high level; Solid State Drives (SSDs), Hard Disk Drives (HDDs) and Tape.”

In his view, if an organization’s primary need is “a large amount of performance and less capacity, the cheapest way to achieve that is with SSD’s – the cost per Input/Output Operations Per Second (IOPS) is much lower than disk or tape.”

Granted, he says, SSD is much more expensive per terabyte of capacity, but the goal isn’t necessarily to default to one specific type of storage, but to develop and manage the appropriate mix based on your organization’s varying needs.

For example, he notes, “filling your rack with SSD’s for capacity would be very expensive and, similarly, filling racks with HDD’s to achieve performance wouldn’t necessarily be the most cost-effective route either. Whilst entirely dependent on applications running on the system and the types of workloads that would be exposed to the storage system, we’d often suggest a mix of both SSD’s (for performance) and HDDs (for the capacity).”

Then again, the times are continuing to change, and Dean says “in the near future I see our customers using SSD/Flash cache devices in front of large HDD’s to get the best of both worlds.”

He adds that we’re not quite at the tipping point where this kind of solution would be right for everyone but the number looking into these solutions in both enterprise and research organizations is growing.