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Solid State Storage Turns Data Centers Into Business Backbones [Sponsored]

Solid State Storage Turns Data Centers Into Business Backbones [Sponsored]
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A whitepaper by Hubbert Smith, Director, Memory Product Planning, Samsung Device Solutions Americas in collaboration with Tom’s IT Pro.

Decision makers are increasingly aware of solid state technology and its immense capabilities. However, IT staff, analysts, and other business influencers mainly talk about what SSDs can do: boost storage performance, endurance, efficiency, densities, or TCO - sometimes by orders of magnitude. Yet the critical question as to why this affects any business has not been addressed much. It’s about time to recognize SSDs as what they are: SSDs have become the most important component in computing and in digitalization, as they are turning IT from being an expensive necessity into a key business asset.

Solid State Storage is changing the rules. This white paper examines solid state technologies and products as they relate to business necessities in the era of digitalization. It provides insights on why SSDs have become the most relevant component in data centers, one that no decision-maker can afford to ignore.

This paper focuses on applying SSD technologies to workloads and business needs in contrast to spinning hard drives. It looks at real-life examples to illustrate how enterprise storage has become the new front-lines of business innovation; well beyond just an IT commodity.

A Technology Transition Introduces Paradigm Change

Imagine if networking had become “stuck” at 100 Mb/s for 10 years, and then became “unstuck” with 10 Gb/s networks. HDDs have delivered a constant and largely reliable history in capacity growth from a few megabytes up to eight terabytes per drive and more – and will probably continue to do so; but the storage industry has been “stuck” with spinning hard drives, which have not enjoyed a significant performance increase in many years. With improvements in NAND flash performance, reliability and economies of scale, a compelling alternative has emerged.

Defining Performance

Using everyday comparisons, let us think of storage performance like automobiles on the roadway. Roadways have speed-limits (like storage sequential performance in MB/s). And roadways have traffic lights causing traffic to wait, and often pile up (like storage latencies).
The final measure of course is how many autos can arrive at a destination in a given period of time (like storage IOPs – I/O operations per second).  

HDDs are based on rotating platters with mechanical heads moving across the media like the needle of a record player. This means that any relocation of the heads takes significant time, measured as latency (waiting for that traffic signal). HDD performance is further limited by the speed the platters spin at (like those roadway speed limits). The result is like traveling on a rutted roadway with lots of traffic signals. In enterprise storage, lots of I/O activity compounds delays, just like a roadway crowded with autos. The only remedy to enable high performance storage was to over-engineer and create solutions with many spinning HDDs. And now all these rules are being broken as the industry replaces spinning HDDs with SSDs; and these replacements are creating new business opportunities with affordable high speed transactions, affordable high speed analytics, and affordable high speed machine learning. 

SSD Introduces A Paradigm Change

Here we’ve reached the most critical point for the transition from HDD to SSD: solid state drives can handle massive amounts of random read and write operations. Looking at data centers, this means that hundreds of hard drives can be replaced by a few SSDs to deliver the same IOPS performance in facilities that are dedicated to applications such as OLTP or real-time processing (but not for cold storage – this is where capacity-optimized hard drives remain). There is lots of potential for increased consolidation, greater power efficiency, smaller footprints, considerable rack space savings, higher reliability, reduced maintenance, and server count reduction.

The technology transition from HDDs to SSDs represents a paradigm change: in the past, applications were often limited by processing power. Today, computing performance is rarely a bottleneck. Instead, computing has to wait for data to be delivered or stored away when hard drive solutions are utilized. SSD technology embraces the use of the processing power that is available today in cloud architectures by removing existing storage bottlenecks, which usually are IOPS bottlenecks.

Ironically, the paradigm change that is triggered by the technology transition is the key enabler for a plethora of entirely new applications. Large amounts of data – you are certainly familiar with the term Big Data – can be made much more accessible for analysis or transformation in an effort to turn Big Data into smart data. This becomes particularly valuable once you start relating data to other data, which results in the generation of new information, so-called Smart Data. This can add highly useful knowledge to your organization’s output and dramatically improve the value or business potential of new services or products.

We’ll look at examples and provide more insight as to what this means for businesses and enterprises, as well as demonstrate how disregard for this paradigm change can mean massive risk and potentially major business disadvantages.

Digitalization, Fueled By SSDs

Increasingly, globalized economies are hitting the markets in a very disruptive fashion. Facebook and Google are probably some of the most popular examples, but digitalization is actually changing the entire game. This means that new products or solutions can be powerful enough to disrupt the way business has been done. Startups that are capable of utilizing and relating data in smart ways can generate new services that can break existing, traditional businesses. Any business that has an IT backbone capable of working with smart data efficiently leverages the potential for being the next big innovator, even if this only means revamping and remodeling existing businesses to gain a more competitive edge.

Real-time analytics are the key driver for digital innovation. Source: Samsung Keynote at Flash Memory Summit 2015 by Jim Elliott and Bob Brennan.

SSDs are no longer prohibitively expensive. We appreciate Facebook, Google and others for helping to create SSD economies of scale, which have served to drive per-GB costs of SSDs today to where they are very competitive to 15K RPM HDD and 10K RPM HDD in cost per gigabyte.

The Innovation That Helps To Innovate

Quite literally, solid state drives are the very heart of business innovation, literally beginning to turn some date centers into strategic business assets that can enable running high value, time sensitive operations against very large data-sets. These appear as problems if not addressed – like the credit card fraud prevention example we will go over shortly. Or, they can appear as opportunities with SSDs as the gatekeeper to markedly improved data processing.

In an effort to take full advantage of SSD technology, it is important to understand why now is the time for adopting SSD technology. Let’s look at how SSDs work, and what enterprises need to know to make smart decisions.