Flash is growing, but IT managers must maximize value of all their storage options

While the market may be pointing strongly toward a shift to flash storage, IT managers must still do due diligence when considering how best to invest in next-gen options while maximizing the value of current systems.

Jeff Rowe | Oct 24, 2017 12:00 am

It seems clear that solid state storage has risen to dominance in the enterprise market, but that fact doesn’t mean IT managers don’t still have to think about how to maximize the value of all their storage investments, adding all-flash arrays strategically while also determining the best way to utilize existing storage infrastructure.

At the EnterpriseStorageForum, writer Drew Robb asked among storage specialists for what they consider solid strategies when it comes to solid state storage.

First, and perhaps not surprisingly, flash is widely viewed the way to go when considering a new storage investment.

“Any block storage array coming up for refresh should go all-flash,” Jason Nadeau, senior director of products at Pure Storage advised Robb. “Better data reduction combined with current flash economics and a fundamentally upgradeable buying model means it costs less to buy flash than buy disk again, regardless of level of performance need.”

The trap many stakeholders fall into, Nadeau added, is that all-flash can be utilized to consolidate workloads sitting on multiple disk arrays. In addition, virtualization will not only create much more agility for IT and the business, but also facilitate data migrations.

“The best all-flash arrays excel at consolidating workloads, freeing up people and monetary resources and removing complexity,” he said.

On the other hand, Jeff Baxter, chief evangelist, ONTAP at NetApp, doesn’t believe that there’s one single storage media to “rule” them all.

“As customers adopt all-flash arrays, they should be able to seamlessly add them into hybrid flash and HDD-based storage architectures and not have to re-architect their entire environment or take extensive downtime to do so,” said Baxter. “That leaves the older storage hardware intact to hold applications with lesser performance requirements, or even be repurposed for backup or disaster recovery purposes.”

Perhaps the most all-encompassing guidance Robb offers is the importance of due diligence regardless of the options at hand.

“Despite the promise of all-flash and the fact that prices are falling rapidly,” he cautions, “due diligence still applies. For all new storage investments, organizations should make a TCO calculation. The price-per-capacity of all-flash storage is still higher than for hard disk. But that is only looking at one aspect. All-flash provides other savings: lower price per performance, cheaper maintenance costs (disks need to be replaced more often than SSDs), less power consumption, less space and lower operational costs (as they require less tuning effort).

“But this will vary from environment to environment, and from application to application. . . . So check your own numbers.”

On a similar note, he says, pay attention to where the market is going.

He cites Kaminario CTO Eyal David, who is convinced that the storage landscape is radically changing. He believes the market is headed in a direction that requires the infrastructure layer to adapt and respond to rapid and frequent changes in business needs and workloads.

“The good news,” Robb says, is that even as IT managers choose between storage options, “there are plenty of ways to eke out more value from older storage hardware.”