Flash Memory Moves Into Enterprise Tier 1 Storage Space

 
 
By Frank Ohlhorst  |  Posted 2012-01-28
 
 
 

When it comes to performance, flash-based memory has always been the undisputed king. However, flash memory has also been the leader in another area as well-expense. Until recently, flash memory has proved to be far too expensive for the typical enterprise to deploy for tier 1 storage. Simply put, the performance offered was not worth the additional cost.

Nevertheless, enterprise needs change, and access speed is becoming more and more critical to many enterprises, especially those looking to deploy virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), mine big data and push ahead with private cloud technologies. All of which depend on fast, reliable and affordable storage, which is where tier 1 storage with cache technology normally comes into play. However, cache combined with spinning media is starting to fall short from a performance perspective, yet it seems to be the most economic path to enabling large storage capabilities.

A purveyor of flash storage technology, Violin Memory has a different take on how flash storage can be affordable and still bring ultra-high performance to enterprise tier 1 storage. The company offers several flash memory arrays, which are designed to replace both spinning media and cache as components of tier 1 storage.

It is that combination (elimination of spinning media and cache memory) that helps to bring value to Violin's flash arrays. Other value-adding features include hot-swappable components, elimination of single points of failure, full redundancy and, of course, a tenfold increase in performance.

Although value is a subjective topic, it does prove to be one of the most critical elements for determining total cost of ownership (TCO), an important metric used for budgetary purposes. It is that TCO metric that can prove the case of whether or not a business can afford flash memory for primary storage.

That is where Violin Storage is looking to play. The company claims that its storage arrays bring a tenfold performance increase to tier 1 storage, which in turn reduces operational costs and speeds results. Jonathan Goldick, Violin's CTO, told eWEEK: "Flash memory helps enterprise operations in many ways. One customer was able to reduce the time it took to mine a large data set from 21 hours to 2 hours and reduce the number of servers needed to process the data. It is that type of savings that flash can offer over traditional tier 1 solutions."

In an environment where time is money, the switch to flash for tier 1 storage could potentially save a great deal of money, while fueling the development of new IT services. That seems to be the message behind Violin's latest product-the Violin Memory 6000 series, which are all-silicon systems.

Violin claims that the 6000 series offers reliability, performance and the economics needed to be deployed as mission-critical primary storage. The company's Memory Arrays are tightly integrated systems built from the chip to the chassis to the intelligently aggregate flash memory.

Using a "Rack-in-a-Box" approach results in a system that can be quickly integrated into the data center. The 6000 series arrays offer an opportunity for infrastructure consolidation, with a single system only occupying 3U of rack space and delivering 1 million IOPS with 4GB/sec of bandwidth. Multiple arrays can be clustered together to achieve petabytes of capacity and high aggregate bandwidth.

For enterprises looking to accelerate their storage performance and meet new demands, flash-based primary tier storage may be the best way to meet current and future needs. It all comes down to balancing cost against performance and including scalability into the mix. Of course, reliability is an added bonus, as well as a requirement, and the lack of moving parts in flash seems to help reliability along, as do designs that build in resiliency.  


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