For years, the primary limiting factor in enterprise IT was the availability of compute resource. It was a challenge to get as many processor cycles as you needed to deliver computationally complex tasks.
Thanks to the advent of virtualisation, this is no longer a bottleneck, with computing cycles an affordable commodity. As technology-demand and data continue to grow exponentially, the next performance limiter is storage. Disk-based systems are a 30-year-old technology that is struggling to cope with the increasing demands of more data-rich applications.
Disk-based storage still has value: in many situations there is simply no need to migrate vast amounts of legacy or archived data onto next-generation storage infrastructure. However the next generation of third platform apps that need immediate responsiveness from rich or large data-sets will call for Flash-based storage in enterprise data centres.
Flash performance allows you to do things that, previously, were not technically possible or commercially viable. It literally creates new revenue opportunities as access to rich, fast data allows you to utilise all of the information within your business to deliver insights about customers and improve their experience (as NYSE has done in partnership with Pivotal). It also lets you do things that have always been possible but have never performed well in traditional environments – for example large-scale virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), vital for efficiency in IT and for delivering the corporate-governed IT required by regulators.
The absence of moving parts in Flash technology also supports the trust and availability imperative (more to follow) – if the technology is hardened against physical failure (a potential ailment of traditional disk-based systems), the odds of a frustrating and commercially-painful outage are vastly diminished.
Flash is more expensive and companies can’t necessarily afford to use it all the time, so disk will continue to play a role in the mid-term. However, we’ll see a lot more Flash deployed as businesses realise its potential and as commodity costs continue to come down in 2015 and beyond.
In addition to some Flash storage, businesses will need increasingly sophisticated software-defined storage automation tools that enable them to tier and sort data across their different storage hardware technologies in order to support the efficiency imperative.
A good example of the imperative for organisations is Cancer Research UK. It has adopted virtualisation, Flash-based storage and data de-duplicationresulting in a 30% improvement in performance alongside increased capacity to cater for its expected 30% year-on-year growth in data. The result is that employees can access information more quickly and Cancer Research UK believes that these benefits mean the system essentially pays for itself.