Data Center Tech Blog

Jean S. Bozman is Director, Infrastructure Research, at Neuralytix Inc., a market research firm based in New York and California.

Introducing SanDisk®’s Chief Technology Officer Kevin Conley at Flash Memory Summit 2015 gave me a front-row seat as he delivered his 360-degree perspective on flash as a technology pivot-point for innovation in the data center.

Starting with flash’s role today in embedded, consumer and enterprise markets, he showed why 3D technology will be the next wave for flash. As his slides show, 3D flash will infuse flash-enabled devices and systems with high levels of performance and storage capacity. The end result? More storage inside laptops and smartphones, speed and precision in Big Data processing, near real-time online experiences – and increased momentum toward the Internet of Things (IoT).

At the same time, he noted that 2D flash “has legs” and will likely be around for many years, as customers adopt a wide range of flash-enabled systems. The current generation of flash has already brought change by efficiently storing data in cell phones, PCs, and today’s IT servers/storage. The 2D and 3D generations of flash technology will co-exist, even as the waves of technology refresh continue to ripple through the data-center infrastructure.

8 “Newsbytes” from the SanDisk CTO

Here are some of the most interesting insights from his keynote:

  1. “Tall is the New Small” for flash-led innovation. This makes 3D flash in the data center a new approach for regaining the momentum of Moore’s Law for flash technologies. It will also allow data centers to scale up high levels of storage capacity packed into smaller form-factors. New geometries in 3D will give rise to a new generation of flash-based systems that need less “footprint” in the data center due to efficient storage in smaller spaces.
  1. Density’s Rising in Flash – giving data centers more efficient storage. It couldn’t have happened at a better time – as Big Data/Analytics, Mobility, Social Media and Cloud are driving up demand for storage capacity. Multi-terabyte solid-state storage – ending up with multi-petabyte data centers – is an effective way to deal with rapidly rising storage needs in the data center.
  1. Hyperscalers are building capacity with flash-based storage pools. They’re leading the way for building data centers that house scale-out architectures. This architecture brings enough storage capacity to meet the ever-growing storage needs for the cloud services they provide. Over time, enterprises will adopt more hyperscale-like, web-scale architecture (originally deployed in cloud service provider companies) in their own data centers.
  1. As Conley noted in his keynote, many of the early adopters of scale-out flash-enabled architecture can be found in the “hyperscale” world – companies like the cloud giants, like Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and more. These sites have largely built their own infrastructure (via AppDev and DevOps talent), with little outside help in assembling it.
  1. Enterprises ARE adopting flash and the cloud and Big Data/Analytics. They often look to third-party firms (systems vendors, system integrators and VARs) to help them select – and put together – the “building blocks” for next-generation infrastructure.
  1. Many in the enterprise IT sector will buy pre-integrated systems – called converged and hyperconverged systems – to ease and speed deployment, compared with building all the software to energize new infrastructure.
  1. For new technologies like 3D flash – the thing to do is to keep your eyes on the technology horizon to study what’s new, and how to use it.
  1. To learn more, IT managers should study best practices, especially from organizations that have already used all-flash arrays and the new technology in the flash world. That will save them time – and money – when selecting and deploying new technologies.

The View from Here

From my perspective as an industry analyst, the transformation of data centers is well underway – and Flash Memory Summit (FMS) sessions clearly showed that flash storage provides both high performance and high capacity, while saving valuable data-center space.

It’s those Opex benefits that struck home to customers at the FMS conference’s Enterprise Applications panels. Over and over – in talk after talk – customers speaking at the FMS audience told how they have used flash to house much more storage, in less data-center space, than hard-disk-drive deployments. That phenomenon has a secondary effect: customers get more storage, in less space, requiring less (electric) power and IT staff time to tend to the storage.

3D NAND technology will continue that trend, but it’s still pragmatic to consider building and buying flash-enabled technologies, across the full spectrum of products available in the industry. And that’s the process we’ve already seen in the 2D flash world – taken to the next generation of IT infrastructure.

That’s what it looks like from here in the front row of the Flash Memory Summit.

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