Related Topics: Containers Expo Blog, Java IoT, Linux Containers, Agile Computing, @CloudExpo, SDN Journal

Containers Expo Blog: Article

The Future Is Now: Why Flash Storage Will Transform the Data Center

By using software-defined storage, data center architects can design a flexible, efficient and powerful framework

For an example of just how dramatically storage has changed over the past fifteen years, consider your music collection. At one point, you had a collection of cassettes that stored the song files on tape. As the years went on, your hairstyle changed and you bought a CD player that used a spinning disk to store more song data at a higher quality than tape could. Spinning disks flourished well into the MP3 player era, surviving even the initial introduction of flash storage due to its competitive cost. Eventually, however, your newest smartphone or iPod shipped with flash storage instead, as manufacturers bowed to its improved performance over disk storage and its increasingly competitive price point.

This is an example of a sea change taking place at a much bigger scale as well. Instead of gigabytes, think petabytes.

The data center infrastructures designed by telcos, service providers and major enterprises to store massive quantities of data have lately used predominantly disk storage in their servers, sometimes blending in flash storage for performance-intensive tasks. While the speed and performance of flash storage has tempted data center architects to deploy it more widely throughout the data center, it has only been recently that the price of flash has decreased enough to make its broader use a viable option.

To understand why flash storage has suddenly become a practical choice for data center architects across industries, it is helpful to examine the differences between flash and disk storage.

The Next Big Thing, Again
As the example above shows, when it was introduced, disk storage represented leaps and bounds of progress in speed and efficiency compared to tape storage, the predominant method of the time. Even after flash was introduced to the market, disk storage remained the server architecture of choice. Flash did deliver substantially higher performance, but was priced too high to ever present a real threat to the prevalence of spinning disks. In addition, flash drives were smaller in capacity and not able to store as much data per unit as spinning disks at the same value.

However, new improvements in flash have slashed its price significantly, positioning it as a true data center hardware alternative whose benefits - speed in throughput and latency - have dramatically increased at the same time. As an added plus, flash is highly energy efficient, needing only a fraction of the power needed by disk storage, sometimes at the ratio of one to 16. Flash drives still break down at a faster rate than does disk storage, but its boosts in performance and drop in price in recent years have made flash a realistic and highly attractive option for data center architecture and design needs.

Making the Switch
In fact, it's increasingly feasible that today's data center - still reliant on disk storage - could use 100 percent flash storage tomorrow. Telcos, service providers, major enterprises and other major companies whose profits are tied to the speed and availability they can provide to their customer base, are beginning to look at flash storage's blistering performance as less of a "nice to have" option and more of a core technology necessary to maintaining a competitive edge.

While the high-performance-demanding industries of telco and service providers are diving into flash straight away, vendors in other vertical markets have made cost-benefit calculations and have elected to hold back until the price of flash storage drops even further. For example, a Dropbox-style file hosting service for consumer cloud storage isn't as likely to be motivated by fast performance as it would be with ensuring the availability of cheap storage at scale. Companies like these are making the usual tradeoff in storage: finding a comfortable place between price and capacity. However, when the price of flash finally descends to that of disk storage, the last barrier will be removed for those companies that want to remain competitive. When this last milestone finally happens, the market shift will be as significant as when disks replaced tape storage by beating it on the same markers: higher performance and better pricing.

Advancements in Software
One of the trends making this shift possible is that of software-defined storage. By adopting a software-defined approach to storage infrastructure, organizations have the flexibility to deploy flash storage throughout their data center architectures quickly and easily.

As background, the concept of software-defined storage seeks to move functions and features from the hardware layer to the software layer. This approach removes the dependence on expensive and annoying redundancies that solve issues based in the hardware layer. Data center architects must also plan for the inevitable failure of hardware. Flash storage, in particular, currently has a faster time-to-failure rate than disk does. In storage environments that don't use RAID cards, the failure of a disk prompts an error that will impact the end-user's experience. To solve this, architects will build in expensive and redundant RAID cards to hide the errors. By using the right software-defined strategy, these problems can be absorbed and made invisible to the end user. Since software-defined storage is hardware-agnostic, it can run on any hardware configuration.

There are a number of additional benefits that telcos and service provider data center architects can achieve by combining software-defined storage with flash hardware. For instance, the organization could still utilize a single name space spanning all its storage nodes if it were to use a software-defined storage approach. In addition, it could also run applications in the storage nodes as well, creating new "compustorage" nodes instead. As a result, the storage hardware wouldn't need to be big or costly, but could still have very high performance and speed. Organizations can start with a small number of cheap servers instead of building a large, expensive and traditional installation, and still scale linearly as needed.

Flash Assets
Benefits of a software-defined approach to an all-flash data center are:

  • Huge performance improvement through the ability to use the faster flash technology throughout the data center.
  • Lower power consumption means that SSDs reduce running costs, generating far less heat than a spinning disk and requiring less energy for cooling.
  • SSDs deliver a smaller footprint in the data center. Since SSDs are much smaller than spinning disks, they require less space and less real estate to house them.
  • Running more applications on the same hardware, due to hardware performance gains.

Even as many of us still listen to CDs in the car, the music industry is inevitably shifting to a new paradigm built on music files saved on flash storage. The trend is repeating across industries, but nowhere as dramatically as it is in the data center. Flash storage - with its extreme performance, efficient energy usage and increasingly competitive cost - will eventually become the industry status quo. By using software-defined storage, data center architects can design a flexible, efficient and powerful framework for telcos, service providers and major enterprises looking to get the most powerful and energy-efficient data center possible by using all flash.

More Stories By Stefan Bernbo

Stefan Bernbo is the founder and CEO of Compuverde. For 20 years, he has designed and built numerous enterprise scale data storage solutions designed to be cost effective for storing huge data sets. From 2004 to 2010 Stefan worked within this field for Storegate, the wide-reaching Internet based storage solution for consumer and business markets, with the highest possible availability and scalability requirements. Previously, Stefan has worked with system and software architecture on several projects with Swedish giant Ericsson, the world-leading provider of telecommunications equipment and services to mobile and fixed network operators.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.

Latest Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that Streamlyzer will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Streamlyzer is a powerful analytics for video streaming service that enables video streaming providers to monitor and analyze QoE (Quality-of-Experience) from end-user devices in real time.
You have great SaaS business app ideas. You want to turn your idea quickly into a functional and engaging proof of concept. You need to be able to modify it to meet customers' needs, and you need to deliver a complete and secure SaaS application. How could you achieve all the above and yet avoid unforeseen IT requirements that add unnecessary cost and complexity? You also want your app to be responsive in any device at any time. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Mark Allen, General Manager of...
One of biggest questions about Big Data is “How do we harness all that information for business use quickly and effectively?” Geographic Information Systems (GIS) or spatial technology is about more than making maps, but adding critical context and meaning to data of all types, coming from all different channels – even sensors. In his session at @ThingsExpo, William (Bill) Meehan, director of utility solutions for Esri, will take a closer look at the current state of spatial technology and ar...
SYS-CON Events announced today that SoftNet Solutions will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. SoftNet Solutions specializes in Enterprise Solutions for Hadoop and Big Data. It offers customers the most open, robust, and value-conscious portfolio of solutions, services, and tools for the shortest route to success with Big Data. The unique differentiator is the ability to architect and ...
The IoT industry is now at a crossroads, between the fast-paced innovation of technologies and the pending mass adoption by global enterprises. The complexity of combining rapidly evolving technologies and the need to establish practices for market acceleration pose a strong challenge to global enterprises as well as IoT vendors. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Clark Smith, senior product manager for Numerex, will discuss how Numerex, as an experienced, established IoT provider, has embraced a ...
Without lifecycle traceability and visibility across the tool chain, stakeholders from Planning-to-Ops have limited insight and answers to who, what, when, why and how across the DevOps lifecycle. This impacts the ability to deliver high quality software at the needed velocity to drive positive business outcomes. In his session at @DevOpsSummit 19th Cloud Expo, Eric Robertson, General Manager at CollabNet, will show how customers are able to achieve a level of transparency that enables everyon...
Today every business relies on software to drive the innovation necessary for a competitive edge in the Application Economy. This is why collaboration between development and operations, or DevOps, has become IT’s number one priority. Whether you are in Dev or Ops, understanding how to implement a DevOps strategy can deliver faster development cycles, improved software quality, reduced deployment times and overall better experiences for your customers.
Cloud based infrastructure deployment is becoming more and more appealing to customers, from Fortune 500 companies to SMEs due to its pay-as-you-go model. Enterprise storage vendors are able to reach out to these customers by integrating in cloud based deployments; this needs adaptability and interoperability of the products confirming to cloud standards such as OpenStack, CloudStack, or Azure. As compared to off the shelf commodity storage, enterprise storages by its reliability, high-availabil...
Donna Yasay, President of HomeGrid Forum, today discussed with a panel of technology peers how certification programs are at the forefront of interoperability, and the answer for vendors looking to keep up with today's growing industry for smart home innovation. "To ensure multi-vendor interoperability, accredited industry certification programs should be used for every product to provide credibility and quality assurance for retail and carrier based customers looking to add ever increasing num...
@DevOpsSummit has been named the ‘Top DevOps Influencer' by iTrend. iTrend processes millions of conversations, tweets, interactions, news articles, press releases, blog posts - and extract meaning form them and analyzes mobile and desktop software platforms used to communicate, various metadata (such as geo location), and automation tools. In overall placement, @DevOpsSummit ranked as the number one ‘DevOps Influencer' followed by @CloudExpo at third, and @MicroservicesE at 24th.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Super Micro Computer, Inc., a global leader in Embedded and IoT solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Supermicro (NASDAQ: SMCI), the leading innovator in high-performance, high-efficiency server technology, is a premier provider of advanced server Building Block Solutions® for Data Center, Cloud Computing, Enterprise IT, Hadoop/Big Data, HPC and ...
“Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. CloudBerry Backup is a leading cross-platform cloud backup and disaster recovery solution integrated with major public cloud services, such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform.
In the next forty months – just over three years – businesses will undergo extraordinary changes. The exponential growth of digitization and machine learning will see a step function change in how businesses create value, satisfy customers, and outperform their competition. In the next forty months companies will take the actions that will see them get to the next level of the game called Capitalism. Or they won’t – game over. The winners of today and tomorrow think differently, follow different...
Without lifecycle traceability and visibility across the tool chain, stakeholders from Planning-to-Ops have limited insight and answers to who, what, when, why and how across the DevOps lifecycle. This impacts the ability to deliver high quality software at the needed velocity to drive positive business outcomes. In his general session at @DevOpsSummit at 19th Cloud Expo, Eric Robertson, General Manager at CollabNet, will discuss how customers are able to achieve a level of transparency that e...
Web Real-Time Communication APIs have quickly revolutionized what browsers are capable of. In addition to video and audio streams, we can now bi-directionally send arbitrary data over WebRTC's PeerConnection Data Channels. With the advent of Progressive Web Apps and new hardware APIs such as WebBluetooh and WebUSB, we can finally enable users to stitch together the Internet of Things directly from their browsers while communicating privately and securely in a decentralized way.