Ever since the rise of Flash memory in the form of solid-state drives (SSDs), a debate has raged over how much Flash to deploy where and when. That debate has basically forced every vendor to fundamentally realign its overall product strategy in order to strike a balance between performance and capacity.
Looking to achieve that balance in a way that every customer can suit to their own requirements, NetApp today unveiled two unified storage systems at the low and high end of its storage portfolio.
The FAS8080 EX provides up to 4 million IOPs per second of access to up to 70PB of capacity across more than 600 I/O connections. That level of performance is provided via access to nearly a half of petabyte of cache, larger SSDs and the latest generation Intel Ivy Bridge processors. The FAS8080 can also be configured as an all-Flash array that provides access to more than 4.6TB of Flash storage.
On the low end of the portfolio, the FAS2500 series can be configured with up to 576TB of storage using as many as 144 drives with access to 4TB of Flash memory.
Mark Welke, senior director of product marketing for NetApp, says the largest use case of Flash is going to be the hybrid array. The cost of storing terabytes of data in Flash is still prohibitive. It makes much more financial sense to optimize the performance of an application by relying on Flash memory to optimize access to low-cost magnetic storage, says Welke.
While there are instances, such public cloud services and high-performance computing (HPC) applications, where all-Flash arrays are a requirement, Welke says the majority of the usage of Flash memory in the average enterprise is going to be via a hybrid array.
NetApp, like most storage vendors, also resells Flash storage cards from Fusion-io, which earlier this week was acquired by SanDisk. A big part of the Flash memory debate facing IT organizations today is the degree to which IT organizations will rely on server-side SSDs to optimize the performance of an application versus using an all-Flash array. Given the fact that the server-side storage is much closer to the compute engine, the all-Flash array is most likely going to be a relatively niche market.
In the case of NetApp, Welke says the complexity of managing all those different types of storage is mitigated by the presence of the Data OnTap operating system that manages access to underlying storage resources.
In the meantime, the rise of Flash is already starting to be felt by storage vendors that are seeing the demand for high-performance magnetic storage systems starting to fall. That doesn’t mean that magnetic storage is going away. But it does mean that the hierarchy of storage, in terms of what medium gets applied to what types of data, is now forever changed.