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Solid-State Storage – The Economics of Performance

In this article, Rob Batters, Services Director, Enterprise Solutions at Northdoor, weighs up the pros and cons of using solid-state storage within the enterprise. Rob also considers the optimal requirements to implement a solid-state storage strategy into an organisation’s IT infrastructure.

Becoming mainstream

Rob-BattersIn the last few years, solid-state storage has entered the mainstream. No longer perceived as purely high end, solid-state storage has become more affordable and therefore is now much more widely implemented especially within enterprise storage.  Indeed,with the increasing volume, velocity and variety of data so this poses challenges to today’s organisations as the complexity and risk associated with storage deployment and management have risen. There are optimal situations for implementing solid-state storage which can help to elevate some of these challenges. But first let’s look at how we define solid-state storage.

Solid-state storage is data storage made from silicon chips (instead of spinning metal platters or streaming tape). It contains no actual disk of any kind. By accessing data directly from RAM or Flash chips solid-state storage can achieve input and output (I/O) data rates far greater than traditional storage devices such as hard drives. Therefore solid-state storage is typically less susceptible to physical shock, is much quieter, has lower access times and less latency.

There are many benefits to using solid-state storage in the enterprise. There are also optimal situations for its implementation with the overall economics of performance proving critical to the selection of storage used. A strategic storage solution should always reflect the value of the data that it will service and be subject to the same disciplines as any other element of the IT landscape. So when compared to disk technology, solid-state provides superior storage density, cost efficiency, packaging, energy consumption and speed to deployment. Though solid-state storage may overcome many bottlenecks of traditional storage architecture and poor code, it is not a panacea and organisations need to consider their requirements very carefully.

Understanding your storage strategy

When considering your storage strategy and requirements, there are three key questions that the organisation should pose:

  • Is the pace of your storage aligned to the pace of your organisation?
  • If that pace could be improved, would that create some kind of competitive advantage because improving storage can improve the entire infrastructure?
  • If the organisation addresses the element in the technology stack that is hampering the rest of the infrastructure, will that create better storage asset utilisation?

Not a ‘cure all’ but a ‘cure many’

In certain circumstances the answer to the above questions described will be solid-state storage. If you implement solid-state storage the following scenarios are good examples of where the technology is likely to benefit the organisation and your infrastructure most:

When end user experience is critical to business performance. For example, customer call centres, order processing, supply chain logistics or reducing development times, especially if you are looking to cut user complaints.

  • If you are looking to scale more users quickly.
  • If you are looking to consolidate application hardware and licences to simplify solutions. A reduction in physical CPU count may equal a reduction in software licence costs.
  • When floor space or power and cooling are considered important purchasing criteria solid-state storage provides clear advantages, using roughly 20% of power and cooling to handle a given workload. There is also a reduction in rack footprint costs, which is particularly desirable in the data centre.

Typical industries where solid-state storage provides real economics of performance are finance, healthcare, ecommerce and telecoms. If we take an ecommerce business as an example, this environment places incredible demands for high performance and quick response times on the website infrastructure.  The goal for any online marketplace is to make sure that the website can handle increasing number of users as well as large spikes in traffic that accompany peaks in the business. This all puts pressure on the IT infrastructure including the existing storage platform, and can start to negatively impact the responsiveness of the website. Solid-stage storage delivers increased performance by dramatically reducing the latency of the storage which allows ‘hot’ data to be served quickly – ultimately satisfying end-users.

Multiple benefits

Once you have decided that solid-state storage is the right approach for your requirements there are many benefits to be gained. Solid-state storage can have a big business impact by improving application efficiency, unlocking the scale of business processes undertaken, providing a great end-user experience and creating real competitive advantage. From a financial perspective solid-state will maximise CPU efficiency by driving up utilisation, opening the possibility of the reduction of application and database licencing costs.

However, the key aspect when considering solid-state storage is to be selective. Organisations shouldn’t use solid-state for everything and there are still longevity concerns. Above all, we recommend careful consideration of your requirements to ensure optimal utilisation for your storage needs.