Companies are under pressure to gain insight from increasing amounts of data at faster speeds so they can spot business opportunities before the competition. This is driving a shift in enterprise IT towards flash storage.
Storage is at the heart of any modern IT architecture and its success depends on capacity, low latency and fast throughput, so that huge amounts of data can be stored and accessed at a fast rate.
Flash offers incredibly low latency, measured in milliseconds or even microseconds, and in the digital age with the demand for vast amounts of compute power, it is no longer a niche product now that organizations are data-driven and reliant on analytics.
The lower cost of deploying hard disk drive storage was a reason for its preference over flash in the past. However, flash has become more competitive in pricing due to design innovation and consumer demand, and with features such as dynamic tiering, compression and data deduplication, as well as storage virtualization, the case for choosing flash is compelling.
The fact flash offers greater capacity with less rack space also means it makes economic sense and offers cost-efficient storage, which is more reliable than disk.
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The trends driving storage
The mega-trends that are driving organizations’ IT strategies are cloud, data analytics, mobile and social engagement, and security. As a result, many enterprises are beginning to demand all-flash for primary storage.
"We do believe that all-flash will be everywhere; it will be ubiquitous," said Eric Herzog, IBM's vice president of product marketing and management for storage. "We're starting to see customers ask for flash in every product slot."
Once users deploy flash, they want more, says Eric Burgener, storage research director for market research firm IDC. "Flash is better on performance and reliability, uses less power, and has better CPU utilization,” he says.
Analyst Edison Group says the mega -trends of IT rely on state-of-the-art storage which is shaping organizations’ storage strategies.
“High performance based on ultra-low latency, cost and operational efficiency, and mission-critical reliability will be the essential attributes required of storage in the future,” says Edison in its report, IBM FlashSystem: Powering the future of IT.
It says that IBM’s all-flash storage products offer multiple options for the ultra-low latency, random I/O requirements of cloud, big data analytics, mobile e-commerce, and massive social engagement computing environments.
When organizations move to flash they want it to integrate with their legacy storage technology, which is an important consideration during procurement.
Another critical reason for choosing flash is for its efficient use of energy, which reduces power costs and is more environmentally friendly.
“FlashSystem can take the place of multiple racks of hard disk drives - lowering power, space, and cooling costs. Plus, it can increase server efficiency, which can further cut power and cooling costs and reduce software licensing expenses. Finally, in a future where all customers will require extra layers of protection for adherence to internal or regulatory requirements, FlashSystem supports AES 256 hardware-based data at rest encryption,” the Edison report highlights.
What flash users say
Wanlian Securities, a Chinese state-owned securities company operating nationwide with 43 branches, chose flash storage to minimize latency in its trading systems and improve the speed of clearing. It faced the classic challenge of a successful business - how to offer the same level of service as it grew. But with IBM FlashSystem it managed to reduce trade clearing times from 240 minutes to just 90 minutes – an improvement of 62.5%.
Bottlenecks on its back-end systems - as a result of a tenfold growth in trading volumes on the Chinese stock market - were removed thanks to flash storage, and this gave the business confidence that service level agreements could be met. It also led to a 15% increase in CPU usage.
The company can now move at the speed of the market and is equipped for future growth as transactions continue to increase.
“IBM FlashSytem has helped us cut average response times for our Oracle databases from 10 to less than 0.4 milliseconds,” says Chen Zhaohua, vice president, technical information center director, Wanlian Securities.
“We can execute trades as fast as our customers need us to and accommodate business growth. We are highly confident that as the number of transactions at Wanlian Securities continues to grow; our IBM FlashSystem solution will keep us one step ahead of the competition.”
In the healthcare sector the focus on reducing costs and improving patient care is also making more organizations choose flash.
UF Health Shands Hospital, the teaching hospital for the University of Florida, relies on an electronic health record system and when it upgraded to the latest version that features advanced analytics tools for doctors, it deployed IBM FlashSystem to support the improved functionality.
Prior to deployment, the hospital was buying fast high-end disks to ensure rapid access to patient data, but often capacity was under-utilized, which was uneconomic.
“With IBM FlashSystem, we can provision virtual disks that contain only as much capacity as we need - this enables us to achieve the required redundancy while avoiding over-investment in storage,” says Jasen Kloeppel, director of data management and disaster recovery at UF Health Shands Hospital.
Kloeppel says the deployment of flash “has sharpened our ability to deliver first-class patient care” as leading-edge analytics to improve clinical decision-making is now supported by fast, resilient state-of-the-art storage.