Data Center Tech Blog
Dr. John R. Busch

Dr. John R. Busch, Senior Fellow, SanDisk Enterprise Storage Solutions

Macau Science Center Photo by Diego Delso

Macau Science Center Photo by Diego Delso

I recently attended the HP Storage Summit 2014 in Macau, China. I wanted to share some key trends and technologies that were discussed in the conference’s various presentations, and why they are having such a profound impact on the storage industry today.

A New Style of IT

In the opening presentations by David Scott, senior vice president and general manager, HP storage, “Changing nothing risks everything – Say “no” to the status quo and learn why HP is number one in storage”, David discussed how flash memory is transforming the storage industry. If previously flash memory was used primarily in niche application deployments due to cost, today we are at the tipping point where all flash arrays will replace traditional storage, offering consistent, high performance at prices on parity with hard drive storage.

A great example to elucidate the profound changes we are seeing is HP’s new 3PAR StoreServ 7450 All Flash Array, which is fast, affordable, and enterprise class. It delivers 900,000 IOPS at less that .7 milliseconds response time, or 500,000 IOPS

As HP’s 3PAR hardware supports thin provisioning and de-duplication it reduces usable capacity requirements by more than 75%, providing 4-10 compaction, making flash very cost efficient. Furthermore, adaptive sparing on SanDisk® 1.9 Terabyte SSDs deployed in the HP 3PAR 7450, extracts 20% more useable capacity. While the SanDisk Guardian technology supports very high levels of reliability and endurance, the 3PAR StoreServ 7450 extends this ever further and delivers six-9s (99.9999%) of availability at the system level.

The World Is Changing

Further amplifying the transforming impact of flash memory in his presentation, Michael McGrath, senior storage Technologist, Intel, pointed out that SSDs are 2000x faster than HDDS(!) while consuming 99% less power than HDDs, while being much more reliable .

In a graph in his presentation, he compared HDDs and SSDs in performance, reliability and power needs (you can see his original slide on the summit website):
SSD HDD comparison

The power savings are an efficiency that take flash far beyond ‘just’ performance: the cost of a watt in a data center is between $10 and $18 over 3 years (half for power, half for cooling), so when calculating enterprise needs, flash can deliver sizable savings, while also helping keep our planet sustainable.

Did you know that HDD crashes are the leading cause of data loss? Without moving mechanical parts, SSDs do not face mechanical failures like spinning drives that crash or randomly fail.

Costs Are Converging

The bottom line for most organizations is how to deal with the exponential growth of data within their narrowing budgets. Brian Cox, senior director of marketing, SanDisk, gave a great example is his presentation, showing how flash memory drops the cost per I/O operation per second from $2.03 for HDD to $.09 for SSDs while increasing the IOPS (I/O operation per second) per watt from 21 for HDDs to 978 for SSDs. These are huge advantages for database applications and other I/O intensive operations:

Optimizing the Entire Technology Stack – The Role of Software

In the past, software has been developed to live with the characteristics of hard-drive based storage. To maximize the benefits of flash memory, vertical integration in the entire technology stack is key. Advanced flash management techniques are critical in achieving performance, cost, reliability, and endurance benefits and vertical integration in the technology stack using advanced flash-optimized software can both compensate for slower tiers of storage and take better advantage of flash hardware performance capabilities.

One such example Brian touched upon in his presentation is SanDisk’s FlashSoft – server-based flash optimized software for caching in direct attached flash that can compensate for slower tiers of storage allowing access performance to approach that of pure server direct attached flash.

A second example Brian discussed is how flash-optimized object technology based on SanDisk’s recently announced ZetaScale can be integrated with databases, in-memory data grids, and object stores to allow them to achieve DRAM-level performance with the data deployed in server direct-attached flash. When applications integrate with ZetaScale libraries they can typically increase throughput by five times when measured on identical server/flash configurations, and the servers become fully balanced – I recommend reading Johann George’s blog to learn more:

The Rise of Software-Defined Storage

Dale Degen, WorldWide Senior Marketing Manager, HP Storage, dedicated his presentation to Software-Defined Storage (SDS) and how it allows the seamless scaling of storage through software, while delivering cost optimization by enabling application and storage co-location (See his presentation slides on the summit website)

SDS has been driven by more powerful x86 servers and highly virtualized (latency tolerant) workloads that can use the equipment you have in data centers. He positioned HP’s Virtual Storage Appliances (VSA) providing clustered, scale-out storage as a solution for small to mid-sized business where no storage specialists are needed, as an optimal solution for Service Providers as well as midrange enterprise data centers.

One of the key items Dale discussed was how HP’s VSA provides federated and autonomic data services that are hardware agnostic and hypervisor independent for X86-based architectures, providing administrative -driven control and application-driven control, in contrast to a cloud interface which provides user-driven control. It’s not an either – or situation, as software-defined technologies deliver flexibility and agility to support multiple storage needs.

Shaping The Future Data Center

This summit reinforced that flash memory is a transforming technology. Indeed, this is evidenced by the fact that the growth rate of flash memory has now surpassed the growth rate of both HDD and DRAM.

Data center architectures and products range from all-flash storage arrays to the use of direct attached flash in servers coupled with optimized software, enabling a range of products that dramatically increase performance while driving down cost and power consumption.

I envision that flash-based architectures will continue to evolve and improve, especially in terms of vertical stack optimization, bringing even greater efficiencies and further improving application performance. This includes new SDS architectures that will be tightly-coupled with commodity servers and the applications running on them, taking advantage of the very low latencies of server direct-attached flash with flash-optimized distributed data access methods.

We are indeed entering a new and exciting IT world.

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