No Flash in the Pan: Flash Memory in 2015 Hotter Than Ever

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2015-08-13 Print this article Print

Still, all-flash storage isn't the be-all and end-all for every business. Users want options, because often their use cases require reliability and cost-containment (think HDDs and digital tape) more than speed or anything else.

Other Legitimate Points of View

Thus, there are other forward-thinking folks who contend that the future of the data center is not about all-flash, and this is a legitimate point of view. After all, there is certainly room for hard disk drives and tape, as there has been for decades. It always depends on the production use case.

"Some say that the future of the data center is all flash, and that is utter nonsense," Jay Kidd, former NetApp CTO who's now with Wing Ventures in Menlo Park, Calif., told eWEEK. "IDC published a report saying that by the end of the decade, 80 percent of enterprise data will still be stored on disks, and flash will be mainly used for the hot, active data. But there is a lot of data that is not hot at any moment in time.

"The companies that advocate a flash-only environment will find themselves niched. The companies that can integrate high-performance flash with high-capacity, cost-effective disk environments in a seamless, transparent way—that's going to become the workhorse of data management in IT."

Flash Costs Have Come Down Over Time

Generally speaking, flash costs about one-tenth as much per gigabyte as DRAM (dynamic random access memory), but it still costs 10 or 15 times more than spinning disk drives. Much of the talk at Flash Memory Conference was around industry competition here.

Another topic: NAND Flash and DRAM are becoming interchangeable in the data center. Again, it's all about use cases and requirements.

"You'd be surprised at how often IT folks are using straight DRAM for (handling) hot data," Phil Brace, President of Seagate's cloud systems and electronic solutions, said in a keynote address Aug. 12. Brace's presentation, "Flash and Hard Drives: A Winning Combination for Future Data Centers," explained how his company is optimizing and offering both types of storage media because choice is what the real world wants.

There was plenty of technical talk, as always. Diablo Technologies, a relative newbie in the memory sector that has been getting some attention recently, has demonstrated that putting NAND flash into server main memory slots and actually addressing it at the bit level (like memory) and not at the block level like regular NAND flash, is going to be a disruptive technique.

More New Ideas Coming Down the Pike

New solid-state memory-type data storage is evolving continually. Back in 2013, Diablo developed Memory Channel Storage -- which extends DRAM -- along with SanDisk and IBM, and the jury's still out on that one.

The most recent development in non-volatile memory IT is the 3D XPoint memory from Intel and Micron Technology, introduced only a few weeks ago, that is sampling now and will be shipping next year.

"This will fit somewhere in between DRAM and NAND Flash, and it has a lot of potential," Brace said. "There's always something new going on in this business."


Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK. Twitter: @editingwhiz
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