I have awarded the inaugural Wikibon CTO Award in 2008 for the best storage technology innovation to two companies:
- EMC’s 2008 introduction of flash storage drives
- Axxana’s 2008 Introduction of enterprise data recording (EDR)
EMC Flash Drives
Solid States Drives (SSD) are nothing new. Many small vendors such as STEC and Texas Memory Systems offer DRAM (Volatile) and NAND (non-volatile) storage arrays, as well as hybrids of the two technologies. The challenge for data center operational managers is integrating them into the data center: qualifying, testing, and managing them. As they are expensive and difficult to integrate, they are usually used as point solutions to solve particularly severe problems.
EMC’s contribution was introducing the NAND drives as “just” another storage tier within the storage array. In this way EMC qualifies the technology (current STEC technology), and can use the standard storage management tools in DMX and CLARiiON storage to provide snaps, remote replication, and other services. Two main uses of this technology have emerged:
- Replacing drives that are short-stroked to provide faster response times and are using only a small fraction of the storage available (the most (in)famous example of where this happens is the SPEC 1 benchmark). It is easy to show that 1 flash drive will do more work than 15 or more 15k FC drives.
- Reducing processing elapsed times in order to improve revenue by providing more functionality to users, or reducing batch times (which is notoriously I/O intensive).
Table 1 shows the comparative processing times of different technologies and the distance that light travels in that time.
Over time, as flash technology becomes cheaper relative to disk drives, it will become increasingly common,inspiring changes in storage array architectures. EMC's major contribution is to accelerated to adoption of this important and green technology by integrating it into current offerings.
One area where flash drives do not help very much is in synchronous configurations, which are especially used when zero data loss is a business imperative. The speed of light delays from transmission eclipse the benefits of flash. And that leads us to the second product, which helps solve this problem.
Axxana's Enterprise Data Recording
Axxana solves the “speed of light” problem.
Axxana’s EDR product allows storage arrays to replicate in synchronous fashion over asynchronous distances. To do this Axxana brought together three technologies:
- Flash drives for low-latency I/O and low power requirements,
- Emergency cellular transmission,
- Airplane “black box” ruggedization to preserve the data in the case of fire or explosion.
This technology allows a storage vendor to save the data not yet committed to the remote site in an EDR housed in the array, and allows the data to be recovered following almost any disaster to the primary site.
This can save a fortune for organizations with two data centers within synchronous distance. More importantly for many organizations, it also allows revenue increasing opportunities by improving the quality of transactions by reading and writing more data.
It also allows organizations to attain a “near zero” recover point objective (RPO) with an existing remote site, which significantly simplifies the recovery from any disaster.
Congratulations to EMC and Axxana for introducing two great storage innovations in 2008. Wikibon believes that these technologies will become ubiquitous over the next few years and both will significantly affect the quality of computing service that will come to be expected.
Action Item: IT organizations should evaluate flash drives on a systems basis, and experiment freely with it in 2009. CIOs and CTO's should push storage vendors hard to adopt Axxana's technology.