Flash to the Future: Envisioning a Diskless Future with Flash Storage

June 6th, 2012 | Posted by admin in Editorial

Flash storage has been making a comeback in tech circles lately with news of EMC’s recent acquisition
of XtremIO and PureStorage’s second generation FlashArray 300-Series system. While flash storage is
nothing new, since it’s been in portable flash drives, smartphones, tablets and laptops for years, it’s been
sneaking its way into the enterprise and midsize storage market, as companies crop up offering scalable
flash arrays

The Decline of the Mechanical Disk: A Two-Minute Survey

For years, the data storage industry has been clinging to archaic technology for dear life. It even got to
the point that when tape storage began its steep and steady decline there was talk of virtual tape libraries
(VTLs), which essentially meant placing cache memory at the top of tape silos. This basically serves the
same function as many of the hard disk/solid state drive solutions available today.

Hard disks are facing the same problem that tape drives have faced over the past decade or so. Flash
storage technology continues to become more and more sophisticated, while hard disk technology struggles to keep up. As flash storage advances in the coming years, hard disk technology will continue to become cheaper, slower and increasingly useless for enterprise-level computing.

What Flash Means for the Future of Enterprise Data Storage

Flash storage systems are being lauded as the very thing that will save the enterprise storage industry. In fact, Gartner predicts that the flash-based storage industry will reach $4 billion by 2015. It makes sense that
data companies both large and small are striking the iron while it’s still generating some heat. But aside
from the obvious financial benefits, this adoption of flash storage will change data management on the
enterprise level.

Mechanical and Flash Disks Do Not Mix – Flash storage companies like PureStorage and Scale
Computing are in the business of changing how disk arrays are designed and manufactured. While many
disk array vendors are utilizing hybrid hard disk and flash systems, new storage startups are seeking to
take hard disk tech out of the equation entirely. While EMC has been using flash cache to boost hard disk
performance, there’s this idea that in all-flash storage environments there is no room for HDDs.

De-duplication & Flash: A Match Made in Silicon Valley – The big idea behind data de-duplication
or intelligent compression on the datacenter level will increase data storage and management performance
while significantly lowering costs. This is a significant development as the main thing keeping hard disk
technology alive is the fact that it’s nearly 10-times cheaper than flash storage. On the flip side, flash
storage is more energy efficient, easier to use, and up to 10-times faster than its hard disk counterpart.

Aside from cost, hard disk storage solutions are impractical at best. They’re bulky, loud, energy inefficient
and slow. As more data storage companies begin to experiment with ways to make flash storage cheaper, it
wouldn’t be much of a stretch for enterprise data storage to be completely diskless in five years time.

About the author: Dawn lives and works in the Indianapolis area, and she enjoys following business-
technology developments. After furthering her education, she has spent some time researching her interests,
and she blogs about her discoveries often.

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3 Responses

  • Kaitlyn Webster says:

    As data storage companies experiment in making flash storage cheaper and actually reach their goal of doing so, will we say goodbye to hard disks?

    • Jake Wilson says:

      I think so. Once flash storage becomes as cheap as hard disks, or closer to it, it would be silly not to choose the faster, easier, more efficient option.

  • In a few years it may be more economical to use SSD’s because their prices are going down. Hard drive prices were down last year but they’ve gone back up because of a recent merger of hard disk manufacturers in asia if I am remembering correctly.

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