Flash Memory Moves Into Enterprise Tier 1 Storage Space

By Frank Ohlhorst  |  Posted 2012-01-28 Print this article Print

NEWS ANALYSIS: Improvements to flash memory technology may spell the end for spinning media as the primary storage mechanism for enterprise tier 1 storage.

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.  

Frank Ohlhorst Frank J. Ohlhorst is the Executive Technology Editor for eWeek Channel Insider and brings with him over 20 years of experience in the Information Technology field.He began his career as a network administrator and applications program in the private sector for two years before joining a computer consulting firm as a programmer analyst. In 1988 Frank founded a computer consulting company, which specialized in network design, implementation, and support, along with custom accounting applications developed in a variety of programming languages.In 1991, Frank took a position with the United States Department of Energy as a Network Manager for multiple DOE Area Offices with locations at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPL), Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), FermiLAB and the Ames Area Office (AMESAO). Frank's duties included managing the site networks, associated staff and the inter-network links between the area offices. He also served at the Computer Security Officer (CSO) for multiple DOE sites. Frank joined CMP Technology's Channel group in 1999 as a Technical Editor assigned to the CRN Test Center, within a year, Frank became the Senior Technical Editor, and was responsible for designing product testing methodologies, assigning product reviews, roundups and bakeoffs to the CRN Test Center staff.In 2003, Frank was named Technology Editor of CRN. In that capacity, he ensured that CRN maintained a clearer focus on technology and increased the integration of the Test Center's review content into both CRN's print and web properties. He also contributed to Netseminar's, hosted sessions at CMP's Xchange Channel trade shows and helped to develop new methods of content delivery, Such as CRN-TV.In September of 2004, Frank became the Director of the CRN Test Center and was charged with increasing the Test Center's contributions to CMP's Channel Web online presence and CMP's latest monthly publication, Digital Connect, a magazine geared towards the home integrator. He also continued to contribute to CMP's Netseminar series, Xchange events, industry conferences and CRN-TV.In January of 2007, CMP Launched CRNtech, a monthly publication focused on technology for the channel, with a mailed audience of 70,000 qualified readers. Frank was instrumental in the development and design of CRNTech and was the editorial director of the publication as well as its primary contributor. He also maintained the edit calendar, and hosted quarterly CRNTech Live events.In June 2007, Frank was named Senior Technology Analyst and became responsible for the technical focus and edit calendars of all the Channel Group's publications, including CRN, CRNTech, and VARBusiness, along with the Channel Group's specialized publications Solutions Inc., Government VAR, TechBuilder and various custom publications. Frank joined Ziff Davis Enterprise in September of 2007 and focuses on creating editorial content geared towards the purveyors of Information Technology products and services. Frank writes comparative reviews, channel analysis pieces and participates in many of Ziff Davis Enterprise's tradeshows and webinars. He has received several awards for his writing and editing, including back to back best review of the year awards, and a president's award for CRN-TV. Frank speaks at many industry conferences, is a contributor to several IT Books, holds several records for online hits and has several industry certifications, including Novell's CNE, Microsoft's MCP.Frank can be reached at frank.ohlhorst@ziffdavisenterprise.com

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