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From speed to performance, flash developers keep the innovations coming

Flash capacity will continue to grow and prices fall as a result, say experts, especially as more IT departments take on expanding workloads and push what’s possible.

Jeff Rowe | Oct 25, 2017 12:00 am

Among the benefits of flash are greater density, resulting in fewer devices to deploy and manage, along with increased reliability. In addition, prices are falling.

So notes a recent review of the flash market in The Register, a UK-based tech publication, which cites an IDC prediction that sales of all flash arrays are expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 21.4 percent through 2020.

In reviewing the trajectory of flash storage in recent years, the article points to its initial use as “a form of cache to help speed up operations,” then its gradual evolution from being a niche media to being a mainstream choice when the speed advantage of flash over other media was realized.

Flash storage’s higher speeds made it suitable for high-transaction databases, explains George Crump, chief steward at storage analyst firm Storage Switzerland, in the article. “They’re still dominant today,” he said. “The next wave is the one that put flash into the storage mainstream,” Crump added, “and that’s how well storage handles virtualized environments.”

With the rise of cloud, the writer notes, “flash helped to solve the ‘I/O blender’ problem inherent in virtualized environments. Operating systems do their best to write and read data sequentially, maximizing hard drive efficiency by keeping the read/write head on one place rather than wasting time dancing around on the platter.”

So what’s next for flesh?  According to George Crump, now that vendors have cracked the speed problem, they’ll have to find other ways of adding value.

He likens it to buying laptops, arguing that the average user can’t drive a device hard enough to make an i7 worthwhile. Instead, they start looking at other characteristics, like the quality of the screen and how light the unit is.

“In storage, we keep cranking performance, but for an increasing number of data centers performance isn’t an issue any more,” he said, pointing, among other things, to the rise of NVMe as a boost to flash storage by improving interoperability.

In short, enterprise flash storage is strong, but it’s likely to keep growing at an increasingly rapid pace of innovation.