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Why It’s Not Time to Panic About the Shortage of Flash Storage

Posted by Laz Vekiarides on Jun. 22


Sold outThe law of supply and demand says that when a popular product becomes harder to find, its value increases. While true, an opposing effect to price hikes is that consumers can change their buying behavior. Scarcity should drive consumers to start asking themselves whether they need that hard-to-buy product as much as they previously thought. This is the scenario playing out in the flash storage market.

For years, vendors have hyped an all-flash future, so it’s not hard to figure out how we got to this moment, in which NAND manufacturers are telling analyst firms like Storage Switzerland they’ve just about sold out of their production capacity for the foreseeable future. Seen as the fastest (and most expensive) tier in the data center, flash positioned itself convincingly as the answer to every data storage question. Beyond just speed, flash devices offer freedom from the tyranny of mechanical failures, as well as superior power consumption – both pain points for enterprises trying to manage large footprints more cost-effectively. According to a recent report from Gartner, all-flash array revenue will exceed $9 billion by 2020. While the next few years look optimistic for flash revenue-wise right now, the future will likely not be all-flash, and this is the best time for reminders as to why.

The reason you fell in love with flash

Aptly named, flash storage is super fast. But its ability to increase the performance capabilities of data centers is obscured by one of its other primary qualities – its cost. When enterprises spend big on flash storage for all their data, the cash outlays are disproportionately large. Densities and prices of old-fashioned HDD have continued to improve, and so the math is quite cruel. Even with today’s “lower” enterprise-class flash prices, costs per usable gigabyte can be anywhere from 10 to 20 times more expensive. Flash vendors try to mitigate this by making aggressive claims about data reduction technologies, but these arguments are flawed. Generally, real-world deduplication rates do little to dent the order-of-magnitude cost difference.

Best practice dictates enterprises use flash only where they need it. Rather than going all-in on flash, IT teams should carefully evaluate the best ways their storage systems can store and manage data throughout its lifecycle. And they must be able to adjust as their data needs change in order to provide the best value for end users. Unfortunately, scaling and moving data in and out of a flash storage environment can feel nearly impossible.

Conservation tips for the flash drought

While we’ve been advising enterprises for years that they should use flash strategically, the recent warnings of product shortages will force budget-conscious CIOs to heed that counsel.

Storage Switzerland Founder George Crump highlighted this point in his recent blog post, “How to Survive 2017’s Flash Drought. Crump writes:

For enterprises, this shortage should be very manageable, you don’t need as much flash as vendors tell you and your data center does not have to be “all-flash.” Active data typically consumes 10 percent or less of the available capacity in the environment. That means that 90 percent of an organization’s data should be on something other than flash, shortage or not.

This is why we created a fully managed enterprise data service built on this idea. Our patented Smart Tiered Caching architecture puts hot data in a local cache at the edge of customer applications, while warm data is stored in a heavily flash point of presence, and cold data gets stored in the cloud. By making data mobility easy and available on-demand, we help customers keep data management costs down while heightening accessibility.

Strategic flash usage makes the most sense for enterprise data centers, whether the market experiences a flash shortage or not. Identify the areas where flash technology and higher storage performance can have the greatest impact, and you’ll increase scalability without blowing your budget.

Register for our live webinar series, “Get out of the box: What you’ll need to know next about storage” to learn more about industry storage trends and a demo of ClearSky Data.

Topics: Bringing the Cloud to Primary Data , Founder's Perspective

About the Author

Laz Vekiarides

For over 20 years Laz Vekiarides has served in key technical and leadership roles delivering breakthrough technologies to market. Most recently, he served as the Executive Director of Software Engineering for Dell’s EqualLogic Storage Engineering group, where he led the development of numerous storage innovations and established the EqualLogic product line as a leader in host OS and hypervisor integration.

Laz joined Dell from EqualLogic, which was acquired in early 2008, where he was a member of the core leadership team – playing a key role in the company’s early success as a Senior Engineering Manager and Architect for the PS Series SAN arrays and host tools. Prior to EqualLogic, Laz held senior engineering and management positions at several companies including 3COM and Banyan Systems.

An occasional blogger, Laz frequently speaks at industry conferences, particularly in the areas of virtualization and data storage. He holds several storage technology patents, as well as a BSEE from Northeastern University, and an MSCS from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

View more posts by Laz Vekiarides.

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