There are two hard facts that every CIO will face as some point as data growth continues:
- Storage performance will become an exceedingly important metric, if it hasn’t already.
- Flash storage alone will not solve an organizations storage problems due to the high $/TB cost.
As I state these two facts, I’m not including in the group of CIOs those that have what many consider to be niche needs. Instead, I’m including those mainstream SMB and midmarket CIOs that run “real world” data centers.
Throw more spindles at the problem
It used to be the case that to solve a storage-related performance issue, a CIO had to throw more hardware at the problem in order to achieve the desired performance level. Poor storage performance also led to such activities as [http://recoverymonkey.org/2012/07/24/what-is-hard-disk-short-stroking short stroking] as a way to gain additional performance at the cost of capacity. In some way, though, CIOs were buying more hardware to solve what has become a more serious performance related trend.
Flash enters the scene, but…
When flash-based drives entered the scene, it appeared as if performance related issues would be solved once and for all. However, whereas Flash-based solid state drives carried with them very low dollar per IOPS figures, the dollar per TB metric went the other way and into the clouds. As such, CIOs could get great performance, but the cost was far beyond what most could afford to store in terms of overall capacity.
In short, the technology to solve the performance issue has been extremely expensive and has required a major trade off with regard to capacity. In some instances, this might be ok, but in others, it’s not an acceptable compromise.
All flash arrays
In recent years, a number of startups have come on the scene with solutions that target the performance issues that have plagued some areas of IT. While these solutions provide massive performance gains, their per-GB price is very high compared to rotational storage. Many all-flash vendors have built comprehensive data reduction capabilities into their products in order to enable a lower per-GB cost, but they are still significantly more expensive than their rotational counterparts, although the performance is not even comparable since the all-flash solutions simply eviscerate the spinning rust solutions.
Hybrid arrays are the sweet spot
Many CIOs in the mainstream are looking for a better balance between performance and capacity than is possible with either pure rotational storage or pure flash storage. That’s where hybrid storage comes in.
Hybrid storage arrays, such as those from Nimble, Tegile and Tintri, provide CIOs with a single storage device that provides significant capacity thanks to spinning storage while at the same time providing performance benefits thanks to the include solid state disks. In working this way, the companies can keep their costs much lower than is possible with all-flash.
These vendors are also working hard on deduplication technologies in order to bring the realized costs of the solution down to spinning disk levels. The vendors in this space are doing some really cool things, in addition to providing a lot of storage with a lot of performance at a reasonable cost:
- Nimble. Nimble’s hybrid approach includes compression in order to save some disk space and the company boasts more than 600 customers.
- Tegile. Tegile is a solution that provides hybrid capacity and performance while also adding support for Fiber Channel, NFS and iSCSI, making it an easy fit in almost any environment. In addition, Tegile includes full inline deduplication to maximize the capacity in the box.
- Tintri. Tintri provides complete end-to-end performance monitoring in a vSphere environment. As an administrator, you always know exactly where bottlenecks are occurring at any location between the disk platter and the virtual machine. This kind of insight in invaluable when it comes to troubleshooting.
These kinds of solutions are supplanting the likes of EMC and NetApp at the fraction of the prices of their more established brethren. Customer satisfaction seems very high and the companies continue to report positive sales and services. As startups, not all solutions are available everywhere in the world yet, though. However, if you’re in the U.S., all three are available now.