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Can All-Flash Storage Arrays Be Cost Effective?

Can All-Flash Storage Arrays Be Cost Effective?
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Can expensive all-flash storage prove to be actually cost effective? Here's a look at five all-flash arrays and how they take advantage of flash to create efficient, super fast enterprise storage systems.

Data storage management of massive disk arrays can be daunting even with the best and most efficient tools. Running high-performance applications such as transactional databases or virtual infrastructures can take a big bite out of bandwidth and I/O operations per second (IOPS) overhead, even if the network design is meticulous and coupled with ultra high-speed rotating disks. For networks like this, nothing can compare to the performance of self-healing all-flash disk arrays with built-in preventive maintenance.

MORE: Selecting The Right Type, Amount And Location Of Flash Storage

While all-flash arrays are not the answer to every storage question -- off-line and near-line storage would not see the same cost/benefit analysis results as a transaction-oriented database for financial services or health care applications -- they are purpose-built to solve performance and I/O issues not currently addressed by other storage subsystems. All-flash arrays boast ultra-high performance, storage and cost efficiencies, and services such as enterprise-class availability, reliability and quality of service, according to the IDC Technology Spotlight report Optimizing Storage with All-Flash Solutions.

In addition to speed and storage efficiencies, IDC says enterprises can see cost savings as well. "Solid state is a more expensive storage media compared with hard disk drives on a dollar-per-gigabyte basis ($/GB) but can be significantly more cost effective on a $/IOP basis. When solid state storage is intelligently integrated into a system with storage optimization technologies, storage vendors lower the acquisition cost and total cost of ownership (TCO)," the report states. Storage efficiency technologies, such as deduplication and compression, also reduce the cost of flash storage, it says.

As was the case with the recent look at hybrid storage arrays, vendors tend to speak about system specifications such as IOPS and throughput in theoretical maximum terms. As in any hardware roundup, your mileage may vary and rarely do products perform to maximum specifications.  

On the next page, in alphabetical order are five representative all-flash arrays that demonstrate the benefits of solid-state storage over traditional rotating disk storage.

Choosing An All-Flash Array

It might seem counter-intuitive to say that all-flash arrays are less expensive than hybrid arrays or traditional hard disk arrays, but it all comes down to what's most important. If your application requires instant access and zero latency, you cannot ask for a better option than all-flash storage.

Today's flash technology, coupled with the trend to virtualize servers, is changing the way storage is designed into systems. What remains to be seen is how well the new class of all-flash arrays stand up over time as high-performance applications put the longevity of flash storage to the test.