Right questions key to picking the best AFA for your organization

All-Flash Arrays will certainly offer performance gains, experts say, but if IT managers have to spend too much time managing the array, they won’t gain nearly as much advantage as they should.

Jeff Rowe | Jul 06, 2018 05:18 pm

If you need fast performance from your data storage system, which is generally the case in most healthcare organizations, than All-flash arrays (AFA) may be for you.

But like everything else, all AFAs are not created equally, so it’s important to know how to find the product that best fits your needs. 

According to tech writer Christine Taylor, “the trick to buying the right AFA for your needs is to a) know what your needs are and b) ask the AFA vendor the right questions so you’ll get accurate answers.”

With that goal in mind, she offers a list of the most important questions IT managers should be asking.

First, she says, it’s important to get an accurate understanding of a system’s usable capacity figure, emphasis on the “usable.” 

Next she says, while IOPs and latency are far less an issue in SSDs than HDDs, but they still matter. “The ideal balance is high IOPs and low latency, but these numbers will not stay consistent across different types of workloads. Mixed, transactional and analytic workloads are going to take more IOPs and potentially more latency than well-behaved batch or sequential processing. Get  . . . your AFAs real-world numbers for complex and high-performance workloads.” 

Then, there’s the real speed of data transfer. “AFAs value lies in high IOPs/low latency/fast throughput,” Taylor explains, “but the speeds you need in your environment may or may not be realistic with a given system.”

Similarly with “availability,” how does the vendor define it, and prove it, for their product? “Ask what tests your vendor is basing the percentage on,” Taylor advises. “A knowledgeable sales engineer will pull out detailed tests to prove their claim.”

Other key questions include how efficiently the system scales, how much post-sale support and maintenance will cost, and how well does the AFA integrate with applications.

Also, what kind of management tools does the vendor offer?

According to Taylor, “your AFA should integrate with existing management toolsets if you prefer to use them. You also have the right to expect high value native functionality on the all flash array. Once again, assume nothing.”

Which is probably the best advice to remember throughout the entire process.


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