Things To Keep In Mind When Choosing Between Flash And HDD Storage

By: Jack Bornhoft

If your company is exploring storage technology, flash is likely at the top of your list. The problem with examining today’s storage options is that they’re ever changing, and simply knowing that you want flash may not be enough of a reason. But if performance and long-term compatibility are your organization’s priorities, it is probably the best solution.

Dennis Martin, the founder and president of Demartek, a computer industry analysis firm, was recently interviewed about his thoughts on different types of flash storage, as well as the future of the entire industry. Martin’s firm has tested a variety of all-flash arrays under varying workloads and concludes that flash performed optimally in most of them. Further, all-flash arrays are able to handle multiple workloads at once, unlike traditional hard disk drives (HDDs).

What to keep in mind when upgrading to flash

When organizations move to flash, they have the option of upgrading an existing controller, or purchasing one that was built specifically to work with flash. In Martin’s experience, it is always preferable to use a controller that was built specifically for flash, because it is designed to operate at the speeds necessary for the technology. Using a new system will simply wind up being much more efficient than opting for a hard drive storage system retrofitted to also use flash.

Hybrid arrays still can’t compete with all-flash

While hybrid arrays offer organizations a way to dip their toes in the proverbial “flash” pool, they are just not as powerful as using all-flash arrays. All-flash solutions are much more efficient and don’t force organizations to have to juggle the quickly-accessible data that will reside on flash media and the “archived” data that must reside on slower, spinning disks.

Is NAND flash going away?

Martin also predicted that NAND flash could be coming to the end of its lifecycle. NAND flash is one of the oldest flash technologies and has found a market for use in devices in which large files are often uploaded and replaced, such as digital cameras, USB drives, and MP3 players.

The problem with NAND is that it has a set number of write cycles, and a drive fails gradually as individual cells begin to degrade and performance declines. To compensate, some vendors include more memory than is claimed to mitigate the damage of eventual NAND failure.

Several companies, like Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), Intel, and Micron, are working to develop new flash-based memory technologies that are much more efficient than NAND. While it will still be a few years before NAND is completely obsolete, newer, solid state options from the large storage vendors will feature more reliable and longer-lasting technology than NAND memory.

What about server-side flash?

Martin indicated that server-side flash has benefits as well as drawbacks. Adding flash to a server translates into low latency, but the server still needs to have the necessary capacity to support the needs of an organization. Servers that leverage the power of external storage can add significant capacity, but also create a bit more latency.

Flash technology is the future

There’s little doubt that as costs continue to drop and the reliability and performance of flash go up, more organizations will look to overhaul their existing storage solutions and replace them with a solid state option. If you’re attempting to decide the future enterprise storage needs for your organization, don’t hesitate to reach out to the flash experts at Champion Solutions Group today by phone at 800-771-7000 or through our online contact form.


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