Is healthcare ready for all-flash storage?

According to a report from Wells Fargo Securities, SSD flash will account for nearly 20 per cent of total enterprise storage capacity shipments within three years.

Jeff Rowe | Jan 30, 2018 12:00 am

Zetttabytes of data are being stored every year across healthcare and other sectors of the economy.  And with annual storage capacity growth expected to continue or even increase, the amount of flash technology being deployed by 2021 may well have doubled and doubled again.

So how close to reality is the all-flash enterprise data center that might best handle all that data?

That’s the question an article asked recently in The Register, a UK-based tech zine, and it walks through the myriad reasons for the explosion of flash and how to determine whether it’s the storage option an organization really needs.

“When flash appeared, it was a time of surging data volumes,” the writer notes. “It was the time when average annual rate of data growth rose to 50 per cent – 60 per cent and which continues today.”

Even in a storage world dominated by the higher capacity and shrinking cost per gigabyte it appeared the volume growth would always outpace the fall in cost per gigabyte of flash making it uneconomic for mass deployment as primary storage.  Instead the move from 100 per cent disk to hybrid infrastructure to the deployment of all-flash arrays (AFAs) has happened far quicker than anyone forecast.

As he sees it, there are several contributing technological factors and one fundamental economic change driving flash uptake.  On the technological side, the price gap closed more rapidly than predicted, demand for greater performance started to rise sharply, and reliability, operating efficiency and manageability and available capacity issues were addressed

The economic driving force, meanwhile, is digitalization, which he says “is based on a perfect storm of mobile ubiquity, app based economics and the continuous release cycle of responsive web scale applications that have totally changed consumer expectations.”

The consequence, he notes, is that in a relatively few years, “the number of applications requiring flash array features and function has escalated beyond all estimates.”

Still, it’s not an all-flash world out there - it’s mixed, and what some users have found is that mixed environments can lead to significant management complexities, additional cost overheads and resource issues.”

In the end, however, he says questions around flash are not simply about raw performance. “Flash, being solid state, has no moving parts so is therefore more reliable and less prone to physical fault than disk - making it more reliable. It’s easier, too, from the perspective of systems management, performance tuning and set up.”

In his view, it’s still a matter of time, but the all-flash data center is coming.

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