“Out with the old, in with the new.”
That mantra is pretty much a constant in the tech world, as the introduction of a new technology tends quickly to render related technology more or less obsolete. And it applies rather readily to flash storage.
According to data storage analyst Scott Sinclair, for example, storage stakeholders in healthcare and other sectors have quickly realized that “flash storage has radically changed the IT landscape. While the most obvious benefit is improved application performance, Enterprise Strategy Group research shows flash users have experienced improved reliability and resource utilization, as well as reduced TCO.”
That said, in keeping with our “old/new” mantra, Sinclair notes that the introduction of flash, while certainly beneficial, has lead to a new problem.
“With solid-state, a couple things happened,” he explained. “First, flash storage dramatically reduced latencies. As a result, IT organizations didn't need all the hardware and spindles to manufacture performance, helping reduce TCO. In addition, managing data center infrastructure got simpler because the additional performance headroom eliminated the need to regularly isolate and resolve application performance issues.
“The second impact was less obvious. With the storage device no longer slowing down the rest of the data path, it wasn't the performance bottleneck anymore. As a result, the entire data path experienced a surge in performance and utilization. The bottleneck didn't go away, though; it only moved.”
Moved to where, you ask? According to Sinclair, “it (often) shifts to the storage network or, in other words, the data path. The dramatic reduction in storage latencies increases the amount of traffic on the storage network, and now the storage network starts holding back data center performance.”
The solution, he says, is NVMExpress. “The basic premise of NVMe is that SCSI technology, and SAS by extension, which were designed for HDDs, are simply too inefficient. NVMe storage is an alternative to SCSI that can take advantage of the low latency and internal parallelism inherent to flash storage.”
In short, he says, “for enterprises seeking to get the most out of flash storage, an investment in NVMe technology is becoming a foregone conclusion.”