Flash – A tech­nol­ogy whose time is now real

SAN­THOSH D’ SOUZA

InformationWeek - - Contents -

Di­rec­tor, Sys­tems En­gi­neer­ing, NetApp Mar­ket­ing & Ser­vices Pvt. Ltd In­dia

he busi­ness case for Flash mem­ory at the en­ter­prise is a strong one. Solid State Drives (SSDs) based on flash mem­ory are gen­er­at­ing a lot of ex­cite­ment. This enthusiasm is war­ranted be­cause flash SSDs demon­strate la­ten­cies that are at least 10 times lower than the fastest hard disk drives (HDDs), of­ten en­abling re­sponse times more than 10X faster. The un­der­ly­ing flash mem­ory tech­nol­ogy us­ing SSDs has many ad­van­tages. In ad­di­tion to stor­age per­sis­tence, these ad­van­tages in­clude higher den­sity, lower power con­sump­tion and lower cost per gi­ga­byte. Flash tech­nol­ogy pro­vides max­i­mum ad­van­tages for ap­pli­ca­tions that per­form many ran­dom read I/Os.

De­spite its per­for­mance su­pe­ri­or­ity, Flash was op­er­at­ing in the shadow of tra­di­tional hard disk tech­nol­ogy for a long time. This is pri­mar­ily due to dura­bil­ity and cost fac­tors. How­ever, in re­cent years, new Flash tech­nolo­gies have de­vel­oped in many forms and have achieved high re­li­a­bil­ity and ex­treme per­for­mance at con­sis­tent low la­tency. This makes the tech­nol­ogy a per­fect fit for cus­tomers where pro­cess­ing de­lays con­strain the busi­ness.

Shared stor­age net­works fea­tur­ing a mix of flash mem­ory and tra­di­tional hard drives (HDDs) can in­crease per­for­mance and lower op­er­a­tional costs for vir­tu­al­ized net­works. To cite an ex­am­ple; an or­ga­ni­za­tion that im­ple­mented flash stor­age to great ad­van­tage is the global cos­met­ics brand, Revlon. Revlon trans­formed its IT in­fra­struc­ture from ground up, cre­ated a pri­vate cloud, built a global dis­as­ter re­cov­ery site and vir­tu­al­ized all re­sources. The re­sults, re­ally spoke for them­selves! Revlon was able to sig­nif­i­cantly lower stor­age costs by mix­ing solid-state disks and rel­a­tively in­ex­pen­sive SATA drives within a sin­gle ag­gre­gate, or “hy­brid ag­gre­gate.” Adding SSDs to the ag­gre­gate in­creased the per­for­mance of the busy SATA disks by a fac­tor of ten. The use of soft­ware that com­bined the ca­pa­bil­ity of server-based flash tech­nol­ogy with in­tel­li­gent caching to ex­tend the vir­tual stor­age tier to the en­ter­prise servers per­mit­ted Revlon to em­ploy rel­a­tively in­ex­pen­sive SATA disks, thereby min­i­miz­ing la­tency by up to 50 per­cent. The com­pany now has the abil­ity to per­form 14,000 trans­ac­tions per sec­ond. It has been able to in­crease stor­age ca­pac­ity five-fold at the same cost and de­crease data cen­ter con­sump­tion by 72 per­cent. In short, Revlon suc­cess­fuly har­nessed its Big Data chal­lenge and turned 3.6 PB of data from a bur­den into a busi­ness driver.

Some spe­cific busi­ness ben­e­fits that a cost-ef­fec­tive, high per­for­mance flash im­ple­men­ta­tion can pro­vide in­clude - Re­duced IT ex­penses: This might seem a bit coun­ter­in­tu­itive, since flash is typ­i­cally as­so­ci­ated with high price tags. How­ever, when used in con­junc­tion with an op­er­at­ing sys­tem it can quickly iden­tify heav­ily used data and move it into flash. This can re­duce or elim­i­nate the need to over­pro­vi­sion net­work stor­age to in­crease I/O per­for­mance, ul­ti­mately mak­ing HDDs more ex­pen­sive than flash stor­age on a dol­lar per gi­ga­byte ba­sis. This re­duces the num­ber of HDDs re­quired for stor­age and also yields sav­ings in power con­sump­tion and stor­age foot­print. Flash can also ac­cel­er­ate stor­age I/O, so mul­ti­ple work­loads can use the same stor­age ar­ray, elim­i­nat­ing the need for sep­a­rate data stor­age si­los and fur­ther re­duc­ing IT CAPEX and staff re­quire­ments. En­abling real-time de­ci­sion mak­ing for ver­ti­cals: The in­creased I/O per­for­mance that flash en­ables in stor­age in­fra­struc­tures can ben­e­fit sev­eral ver­ti­cal ap­pli­ca­tions. For ex­am­ple, for large fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions, which process mil­lions of trans­ac­tions a day over their net­works, high-per­for­mance stor­age I/O can al­low them to con­duct those trans­ac­tions in real time.

On­line re­tail­ers can also ben­e­fit from real-time trans­ac­tion ca­pa­bil­i­ties of flash stor­age. Re­gard­less of whether they are sell­ing phys­i­cal or dig­i­tal prod­ucts, real-time an­a­lyt­ics al­low e-com­merce ap­pli­ca­tions to make rel­e­vant pur­chase rec­om­men­da­tions based on a user’s past searches and pur­chases. So­cial me­dia ap­pli­ca­tions: Faster stor­age can ben­e­fit so­cial me­dia apps by ac­cel­er­at­ing data in­dex­ing. For ex­am­ple, it en­ables quicker dis­tri­bu­tion of a sta­tus up­date to a user’s friends or con­tacts.

Fu­ture in­no­va­tions in semi­con­duc­tor process tech­nol­ogy and economies of scale will yield lower cost, higher per­form­ing flash mem­ory over time. This could lead to the wide­spread avail­abil­ity of cost-ef­fec­tive all-flash stor­age ar­rays that re­duce the need for HDDs and caching soft­ware. This would make all-flash ar­rays a vi­able data stor­age so­lu­tion for al­most any IT budget. Clearly, the busi­ness ben­e­fits that hy­brid flash/ HDD stor­age net­works can pro­vide should make them a part of any IT in­fra­struc­ture tech­nol­ogy roadmap for some time to come.

San­thosh D’ Souza is Di­rec­tor, Sys­tems En­gi­neer­ing, NetApp Mar­ket­ing & Ser­vices Pvt. Ltd In­dia

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