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Myth or Fact: Flash Storage Tradeoffs

Pras Moorthy, Country Manager, HPE Storage Singapore, Hewlett Packard Enterprise | June 23, 2016
Myth or fact? In flash storage, you can have performance, affordability, or enterprise-grade resiliency and data services, but you can’t have all three.

This vendor-written piece has been edited by Executive Networks Media to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favour the submitter's approach.

It is pretty much the accepted wisdom in IT organisations that if you want something "faster, better, and cheaper", you'll end up disappointed. It's possible to achieve one or sometimes two of these characteristics, but almost always at the expense of the third. It's called the Iron Triangle, and programme managers make their living balancing these demands and mitigating the tradeoffs that almost inevitably result.

There's a school of thought that says the same is true in the flash storage world - that you can have performance, affordability, or enterprise-grade resiliency and data services, but you can't have all three. But is that really true, or is it a myth perpetuated by storage vendors to cover gaps in their product offerings?

Flash Storage Benefits

The primary appeal of flash storage is performance - solid-state arrays provide performance levels an order of magnitude faster than disk-based arrays. How much faster? A high-performance 15K RPM spinning disk drive can perform at best a few hundred IOPS at 3-4ms latency. A high-density flash drive can perform thousands of IOPS with sub-millisecond latency. A fully populated high-density array can perform in excess of 1M IOPS while maintaining that sub-millisecond latency.

So it's pretty much a given that flash solutions will deliver performance, and many of them can do it at an acquisition cost comparable to high performance 15K RPM spinning disk. In fact, the right configuration of high-density flash can be had for as little as S$2.50/GB useable storage.

Flash provides additional cost benefits. In enterprise IT, it's common to over-provision disk storage silos to boost performance. The speed of flash eliminates the need for over-provisioning. Flash performance also provides benefits on the server side, reducing wait times and allowing applications to run more efficiently. Applications can run on fewer CPU cores, reducing hardware, software licensing, and maintenance costs. Flash arrays can also reduce storage footprint by as much as 80 percent, with corresponding reductions in power and cooling costs.

A recent Wikibon study proved these benefits, achieving a 75 percent overall read/write performance improvement and up to 6x reduction in latency by upgrading an existing Oracle OLTP application with flash storage instead of Tier-1 disk storage. Wikibon found additional benefits including the ability to accommodate more users, enable developers ready access to full database copies, and provide significantly faster report generation. The total cost of ownership (TCO) of upgrading with flash was found to be a fraction of the TCO of upgrading with Tier-1 disk.

Wikibon found that as latencies dropped, server wait times also dropped, allowing for substantial core count reductions, resulting in a 60 percent reduction in Oracle licensing and maintenance costs and a 50 percent reduction in the  three year database delivery costs for the sample in their study.


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