Last week, I participated in the Storage Valley Supper Club in Milpitas, an informal forum fostering the continuing dialogue among storage professionals, whose meeting focused on the recent advances in Enterprise storage.
My presentation examined how flash has been playing a key role as one of the IT forces transforming today’s data centers: from virtualization, to cloud architectures, in-memory compute, and new ultra low latency devices, such as our ULLtraDIMM SSD. These forces are inspired by a growing need and customer expectation for instant delivery of information and reduced length of response times.
More than ever, if enterprises are to remain competitive, they need to provide real-time data access, and applications are forced to overcome storage bottlenecks. To solve these IT challenges, storage needs to be reimagined to not only deliver increasingly lower latency and higher performance, but to do it at an overall lower cost of ownership in order to meet competitive needs and limited IT budgets.
I wanted to share with you some of the questions the audience asked following my presentation, as I think these may be similar to questions our readers have regarding the flash storage market and flash-based solutions for your data center infrastructure.
Q: Will there be enough capacity in chip fabs to replace HDDs?
A: The way I see it, if there is a compelling benefit of converting over to flash, the economics will drive to building more factories and ensuring capacity. In the 1950’s when hard drives were developed, there was not enough capacity to replace tape. Yet it happened. Why? Because the advantages of hard drives over tape converted this into reality. It’s a process that doesn’t happen overnight, but it happens. Flash is experiencing the same type of transition today.
Q: Given that SanDisk® released ULLtraDIMM, the industry’s fastest flash-based ultra-low latency device, are we going to be disparaging flash on PCIe?
A: Flash is going to continue being available in forms and formats where customers need it. Whether SAS, SATA, PCIe, or DIMM – customers should have choices that meet their unique needs at different price and capacity points. SanDisk has a PCIe offering today, and we intend to continue to enhance this offering.
When we look at a per GB basis, flash on DIMM will be more expensive than flash on PCIe, however, there’s value that draws the higher pricing. Not only is the ULLtraDIMM delivering far lower latency, but PCIe latency fluctuates due to shared IO box.
The advantages of PCIe is that you can get TBs of capacity with a single PCIe flash device, while a single ULLtraDIMM can carry up to 400GB. This performance vs. capacity continues down the line to SAS and SATA devices. When customers look to fit flash into existing infrastructures instead of spinning drives, these SAS and SATA SSDs will offer a lower price point and far higher capacity than PCIe devices. In the coming years we will see traditional form factors going up to 4TB, 8TB and even 16TB per drive. That’s far more capacity than PCIe or ULLtraDIMM have, on a per device basis. We want to provide a spectrum of choice for our customers, to fit their budget, performance and capacity needs.
Q: Isn’t flash more expensive than HDDs?
A: For 50 years, the industry has examined storage costs by calculating the costs of capacity looking the price of dollar per Gigabyte . The reason for this is that the performance of spinning drives has not significantly grown in years, and thus the only metric to improve on has been device capacity. But when we look at our workloads and infrastructure footprints, our costs depend on many more elements than capacity alone. When you evaluate the cost per transaction, flash is far superior to HDDs, and when we evaluate Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of server consolidation and lower cooling costs, we’ve already hit the parity crossover point between spinning drives and flash-based drives. Within three years, industry analysts are predicting that the costs of SSDs will collapse on top of HDDs. At that point, SSDs will not only be faster and have more capacity, but will also be at price parity per GB.
Did I answer your big flash questions? Let me know at @FlashStorageMan on Twitter