By Travers Nicholas, General Manager – West Africa at Dell EMC
Today’s modern enterprise faces a watershed moment. For decades companies have relied on spinning disk drives. Yet in recent years all-flash storage systems have reached price parity with their older siblings. Count in the performance leaps and it is cheaper execute your transactions on flash than on spinning drives – and that’s a fact.
What is flash memory? You are already familiar with it: your smartphone uses flash to store your applications and music. USB thumb drives and SD cards are also familiar examples of the technology. Flash is fundamentally different to spinning disks. The latter uses an arm to move across a magnetic platter, similar to how a vinyl record player works. This causes ‘rotational latency,’ the physical time it takes to move that arm to the right spot for the right data.
Even though spinning disc drives can go tremendously fast – as much as 10,000 to 15,000 revolutions per minute – this is not enough anymore. The demand from data and tier 1 apps such as ERPs, CRMs, databases and analytics are growing faster than spinning drives can handle.
Flash does not use moving parts. Instead it records and retrieves data by deploying electric currents to change the state of particles. The difference is practically instant access to data. Other benefits include reduced power consumption, less heat (therefore lower cooling costs!), less physical space usage, and considerably longer lifespans – twice that of spinning drives.
Flash certainly excites infrastructure people. But what about the business? Why change what works so well?
Because speed matters, and storage dictates the speed of the modern business.
This is not theoretical. A major Nigerian banking client deployed its core application on Dell EMC’s all-flash technology. Prior to this its batch processing jobs were so demanding that they required a night shift of IT technicians keeping an eye on the process. At times, bank branches had to close earlier to accommodate the six to eight hours those batch jobs took to complete. This was even more acute and cumbersome during month end.
But by using all-flash storage, the batch period was reduced to a little over two hours. The night shift could be eliminated and the branches could stay open later. Going to all-flash didn’t just save the bank money. It saved time, resources and manpower.
The cost saving and application performance impact of deploying all-flash solutions can be so profound that some find it hard to believe. Adopters of all-flash storage are experiencing performance leaps of even 10x to 16x – think about it, that translates to lower $ per transaction! Flash storage is not just about saving money – though it easily delivers a better TCO than spinning disk systems – but about a competitive advantage.
Batch processes are but one example. Flash is delivering new levels of performance across all applications, while its ability to pool is getting rid of storage tiers and application silos. You can even go to a backup platform that is all-flash. Instead of recovering a virtual machine and copying it, you can start it up in place on the backup platform, and then while it is online you can migrate it to the primary storage platform. Modern databases using in-memory processing are enabling the real-time organisation. Flash storage is enabling those databases.
The unmatched performance of flash storage is not just accelerating enterprise technology. It’s altering the very foundation of the enterprise.
I can comfortably say that if I was a CIO or CTO or infrastructure manager, I would be dictating flash-first. No matter the app, I’d put it on flash first. Just like the early days of virtualisation, when the industry reached a tipping point, organisations adopted a virtual-first policy. It was economically smart, performance and reliability had stabilised, and everyone was comfortable with the technology.
The market has reached a state of maturity and cost effectiveness that we should be doing all-flash first. Not just for a few applications, but all applications. I would be asking for justification for why something shouldn’t be on flash, not the other way around.