Revisiting the Dollars and Sense of Storage

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Ajay Nilaver is the Vice President of Products at Fusion-io where he oversees the development of flash memory solutions that accelerate IT systems for enterprises world-wide. Connect with Fusion-io on Twitter via @Fusionio.

Ajay-Nilaver-tnAJAY NILAVER
Fusion-io

As we enter the New Year, predicting that mobile connections and mobile devices will continue to grow in 2014 is not a revelation that would surprise many in the IT industry. With IBM estimating that 90 percent of the data stored today was created in the last two years, clearly we’re now hungrier for information and connections than we’ve ever been before.

Businesses of all kinds are eager to help feed our hunger. From hyperscale leaders like Facebook and LinkedIn who satiate our need for connection, to software-as-a-service and business intelligence platform leaders like Salesforce.com who help businesses make sense of all of this data, technology innovators are working out how to build empires on information.

The challenge facing our digital world is that the binary bits storing all our information still need to live somewhere in a physical state. Enter NAND flash memory, the high-capacity super medium used to power IT systems in data centers across the globe.

IT innovation in the year of the horse: Revisiting how we think about total costs of opportunity

year-of-horse

Continued growth in PCIe flash memory adoption is also not a prediction that most IT professionals would find surprising as we enter the year of the horse. What I believe will change in 2014 is how we assess the costs and benefits of the essential elements of our modern information technology infrastructure.

Focus On the End Goal

Since the dawn of storage, we’ve looked at the cost analysis of storage as a simple dollar per gigabyte equation based on raw capacity. That worked well when the only option for storage was the humble disk drive. In the flash era, things are changing.

In our real-time, instant gratification world, we expect information to load as fast as we can click. To keep customers happy, databases need to provide instantaneous information on websites and mobile applications. Enterprise flash memory is a solution IT innovators add to their datacenters to accelerate applications and databases like Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL, SAP HANA, Cassandra, MongoDB and Oracle. In 2014, as flash moves along the adoption curve, more IT professionals will be looking at how to add flash to their data center.

Flash far outperforms disk when you look at the cost analysis as a dollar per input/output (I/O) operation equation. This helps us focus on the real-world end goals facing IT today. Often, we’re not primarily interested in providing storage capacity, but rather, speeding up application responsiveness, even when faced with heavy loads like a VDI boot storm, or a Black Friday super sale. Cost per operation analyses are a solid step forward in breaking free from only thinking about capacity, as flash provides far more performance and value per gigabyte than disk.

The next step in the evolution of ROI analysis is looking at the dollar cost per application transaction. By factoring in the cost savings delivered in power, cooling, consolidation, reliability and management, taking a cost per application transaction perspective considers the aggregate cost savings possible with flash.

Looking at the real-world performance flash provides for applications such as Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle databases, and VMware virtualization solutions, many enterprises find that flash accelerates their applications by 20 to 30 times. These numbers are impressive, but the business value flash offers is even more compelling.

Value and Savings Sweeten the Deal

With applications running from three times to more than 20 times faster, retailers can run reports on weekend sales in time for a Monday morning review meeting. Online advertisers can serve up targeted content on a customer’s first visit to a website. Energy companies can conduct faster analysis of potential resources, meaning they can do more testing to ensure accuracy before moving forward on a project that could cost millions.

These benefits add tremendous value to enterprises. In addition to opening up new business opportunities, flash also provides significant savings on operating expenses, sweetening the deal even further.

Racks of spinning disks need more energy to spin, and they create more heat, which requires more cooling. Flash does not have moving parts, so it is a much more energy-efficient solution. Enterprise flash is much more reliable than disk drives, so it also enables IT professionals to spend more time on strategic projects rather than servicing arrays.

The Flexibility and Simplicity Scale

Flash solutions vary in terms of flexibility and simplicity, and there are options to fit every enterprise’s need. Some flash solutions provide more simplicity by being integrated into a shared storage solution, while others provide more flexibility by being based in servers. Many IT professionals determine what is the best fit for their needs by examining their goals and resources, and some opt to add flash in multiple locations within their data center to meet different application objectives.

2014 is sure to bring us more pop culture events that go viral as they unite us through the social and digital channels we take for granted today. With flash underfoot in the data center, enterprises should be able to easily scale access to information we’re all trying to access at the same time. Whether that’s a new track from Daft Punk making its debut on Spotify, or a story breaking about the passing of great humanist (RIP, Nelson Mandela), or the birth of a new prince being reported online, rethinking yesterday’s cost-benefit equations should help enterprises stay on top of the trends in the year ahead.

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