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How flash storage is spreading and changing simultaneously

At the start of 2018, the storage industry is prepared for an influx of ultrafast, low-latency NVMe-based enterprise flash storage and even higher-performing new memory technologies.

Jeff Rowe | Jan 26, 2018 12:00 am

The tricky part about relatively new technologies such as flash storage is that even as prospective users such as health IT managers are learning about and deciding how best to use them, they keep on changing.

In a recent multiple-interview piece, tech writer Carol Sliwa asked a number of storage industry experts what they anticipate in the year ahead for enterprise flash storage, NVMe technologies and emerging persistent memory options.

“In 2018, for the first time, we'll see cost parity with other storage devices, such as SAS, which is one of the interconnects that NVMe will probably be disrupting,” observed Danny Cobb, corporate fellow and vice president of global technology strategy at Dell Technologies. “So, customers will move from waiting for NVMe to become more affordable to starting to deploy it more broadly as a standard part of virtually every storage platform.”

Russ Fellows, meanwhile, senior partner and analyst at Evaluator Group, is a bit more cautious, noting that “most end users are educated about NVMe and the benefits, and they understand that it's something they want in their next-generation systems.  . . . But on the front end, vendors are way ahead of the customers, and the technology just isn't proven enough. So, very few people are going to try and implement end-to-end NVMe this year.”

Interestingly, George Crump, founder and president of Storage Switzerland, observed that “hybrid storage lost its luster last year, as the world went gaga over flash.” But he thinks there will be a resurgence of hybrid primary storage in two areas. “We'll see a hybrid flash phenomenon where we're using a small amount of NVMe, or potentially even some nonvolatile RAM technology caching or tiering, to a high-capacity SAS-based flash tier.

And we'll also see a slight resurgence in the traditional hybrid storage of flash and hard drives as a backup or secondary storage system, where instead of replicating for disaster recovery purposes from a flash box to a flash box, replicate from a flash box to a box with flash and hard drives.”

Looking more broadly across the storage landscape, Milan Shetti, general manager for storage and big data at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, suggest that “during the last 10 years, we have seen massive retooling of data centers, migrating storage arrays from spinning drives to flash storage. We are about to see a similar tectonic shift, as new media and protocols start to emerge. Customers will stand to benefit as the combination of storage class memory and NVMe slowly starts to seep into the data center. 2018 will be a year of early adopters, as the high cost of SCM will be a big hurdle for mass adoption.”