Flash storage – secret sauce for data-intensive applications

ssd storage close up

We are so fortunate to be in an age of great change. The digital transformation that is such a significant part of today’s IT conversations has spurred development of, and investments in, new technologies designed to enable rapid adoption of data-intensive applications. In a recent blog titled “Composable – a key enabler of digital transformation” I discussed both DevOps and composable infrastructure in the context of the rapid development of new revenue-generating applications.

Flash storage is another one of these enabling technologies. In the simplest terms, flash storage dramatically speeds up storage performance so that applications run much faster. With no moving parts, there is zero latency. Individual workloads such as database applications run much faster, and more workloads can be added. Flash storage is perfect for accelerating VM environments and for supporting more VMs per physical server.

A research paper, “Seven Significant Trends in the All-Flash Array Marketplace,” from DCIG, a prominent analyst firm in the storage space, concluded: “Any organisation that has yet to adopt an all-flash storage infrastructure for all active workloads is operating at a competitive disadvantage.” They added:

The current generation of all-flash arrays adds business value by:

  • Making existing applications run faster even as data sets grow
  • Accelerating application development
  • Enabling IT departments to say “Yes” to new workloads and then get those new workloads producing results in record time
  • Driving down data centre capital and operating costs

These characteristics of flash storage are very supportive of the kinds of transformations IT is being asked to execute in Australia and around the world: IT as a business enabler. An agile IT organisation driving new business value. Deployment of new data-based applications and workloads. Support for the DevOps promise of rapid incremental delivery.

Predictive analysis – artificial intelligence

Very high performance storage brings with it concerns about manageability. How do I know how well it’s performing? How much more bandwidth does it have? How do I effectively share the resource across multiple workloads? How do I adjust parameters and settings on the fly? Perhaps more importantly, how do I deal with issues?

Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s Nimble flash storage arrays come with InfoSight, which is an integral part of the Nimble platform. It’s worth mentioning these solutions here as they represent a textbook combination of a super-fast storage arrays and the capability to make them simpler to use and easier to manage. If InfoSight didn’t already exist, we would have to speak about flash storage as a vital technology that needs some “smarts” to make it truly sing.

InfoSight collects data from thousands of sensors in Nimble platforms across more than 10,000 HPE customers. In a great example of “big data,” the data from many millions of observations are aggregated, analysed and correlated across the installed base, generating cloud-based predictive analytics that anticipate and prevent issues.

By automating the resolution of relatively trivial and simple problems, InfoSight has allowed for the support centre to be staffed with engineers trained in resolving more complex issues, rather than technicians simply “keeping the lights on.”

Next steps

The Enterprise Storage Forum organisation states: “Many IT departments are looking at how to move towards a software-defined future. This cannot be done without also considering solid-state arrays [flash storage]. After all, [they] simplify the task of sharing data between many applications and servers without the requirement to move data or storage.”

There is no doubt that flash is dominating storage. Solid state is outselling hard drives in the enterprise market. The ability of flash storage to turbocharge storage and data-intensive applications should encourage IT organisations to favour flash for all tier 1 applications.

Mecci Oncel is the National Solutions Manager & HPE Practice Lead at DXC Connect

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