Last year, as I looked ahead to the enterprise flash technology trends I saw emerging in 2014, I opened my prediction blog post with the following sentence: “This past year has been a phenomenal year for the enterprise storage industry.”
When I wrote that sentence, I did not guess just how phenomenal 2014 would be, particularly for flash storage technology! Flash is transforming the server and storage industry, penetrating the data center in all applications and all tiers. It’s no wonder this year Gartner released a new Magic Quadrant for Solid-State Arrays as more and more vendors are delivering flash-based systems to meet their customer demands.
As 2014 begins to set and we all get busy with the holiday preparations, let’s take a moment and look to the trends 2015 might bring. I—for one—couldn’t be more excited about where things are heading!
- 15K RPM HDDs will lose relevance We all know hard drives simply will never get faster. As such, their role in the data center is changing. Enterprise SSDs that have been delivering far superior performance now also deliver superior capacities. That means systems accelerated by SSDs will not only see dramatic performance improvement, but will require fewer number of racks, power supplies, and other components as well as reduced electricity consumption and cooling needs. The compromise between performance and capacity is over. Systems using SAS and SATA SSDs deliver both, and they do so at better cost efficiencies than systems using 15K hard disk drives. As a result, 15K RPM HDDs that have traditionally been used for top tier applications will lose their relevance in 2015, both in sales and use case penetration.
- New use cases Flash technology is a key enabler for various industries and workloads, be it online transaction processing in the financial industry, virtualization of servers and desktops, database acceleration, Big Data and cloud services. But the truth is, we are only at the beginning! This next year we are going to see more use cases for flash emerge across new industries. We will see new applications designed to capitalize out the potential of flash in healthcare, the oil and gas industry, media and entertainment and more.
- Flash for archival purposes Speaking of new use cases for flash storage, I predict a rise in the use of flash for archival purposes. With very infrequent access rates, tape and spun-down hard disk drives have been a cost-viable solution for archiving. But in today’s data-driven world, archived data is no longer inactive but is often used for repositories for frequently accessed information such as on Facebook, Flickr and Netflix. Flash provides a dramatically more responsive experience for the user. Furthermore, flash speeds up analytics in order to extract value and understanding from a mass of collected data over time. Organizations view these archives as a treasure to be mined rather than just an expense to be borne. Analytics require far faster access with higher data integrity than what tape can provide. Where magnetic-based media (hard drives and tape) see degradation over time alongside vulnerabilities to temperature and humidity, flash can deliver a more resilient solution. With growing capacities of SSDs we will see new solutions for archiving purposes using flash-based storage that are more cost-effective than hard drives for long term storage.
- Tiering between different types of flash Tiering data across multiple storage mediums for different workload scenarios is an appealing concept for data center managers. Tiering storage, or Hierarchical Storage Management, helps achieve a better balance between price, performance, capacity and function. Until recently, we saw flash used as a tier for hot data requiring high read / write rates, with all other data on slow HDD’s. But flash devices now come in several different flavors; e.g., Write intensive, Read intensive, cold read, high capacity, etc. These different types of SSD’s can be used to create a complete solution with better performance and TCO. To make this a reality, caching software will be developed to move data between different kinds of flash devices. Thus, data centers will fully maximize the benefits of flash across all storage tiers.
How do you see flash affecting the server and storage industry in 2015? Let me know! Join the conversation on Twitter with @SanDiskDataCtr,
John is SVP, Advanced Storage Technologies group, under the CTO's office at Western Digital with 25+ years in the storage industry.