Flash Storage with all the Trimmings

Arthur Cole

Arthur Cole spoke with Scott Kline, director of corporate communications, Nimbus Data.

Enterprise-class flash storage has made faster inroads into the data center than many storage pros had predicted. Price drops, supply problems with hard disks and the demands of Big Data all created the perfect environment for high-speed storage tiers. What's been lacking in all-flash arrays, however, are many of the features and functions that accompany traditional storage environments — tools like deduplication, compression and snapshots. Nimbus Data is hoping to rectify the situation with the new Gemini system, which combines an all-flash array with advanced management software. The company's Scott Kline says the intent is to move flash from a niche solution to mainstream storage applications.

Cole: There has been a lot of talk about the SAN-less enterprise now that flash costs are coming down and capacities are going up. Are we truly at the point where enterprises will start disabling their SANs in favor of local memory resources?

Kline: We are seeing the opposite. Customers that have tried the in-server memory approach are now looking to move to a more centralized infrastructure using complete flash solutions. Application and storage requirements are bringing about the need within the enterprise to share, scale and service their flash solutions without disruption. These ever-increasing demands on storage infrastructure are driving this change in how flash is being implemented beyond being a niche or point solution.

Sharing is also appealing for many applications like server virtualization implementations to provide high availability and to support VMware's Storage vMotion.

Cole: The SAN offers more than just storage, however. Do all-flash platforms like the new Gemini system provide the kinds of management features like dedupe and replication that SAN users have grown accustomed to?

Kline: Not all flash vendors offer software or a complete enterprise software stack, including replication, snapshots and dedupe. Some just offer dedupe or compression. Management, data protection and data security is what is missing in most flash solutions. The Gemini has a complete software stack included at no charge that includes inline dedupe, replication, snapshots, compression and encryption. These are must-have features in today’s enterprise. The software is also a must when trying to displace disk and move from being just a point or niche solution to being a full-blown primary storage piece.

Cole: Such a major change to enterprise infrastructure is bound to have ripple effects elsewhere, however. How should IT prepare server, network and even application-layer environments for an all-flash environment?

Kline: A purpose-built all-flash array will have a significant impact well beyond the storage layer. Most business processes and applications sitting behind a flash array will change dramatically due to the performance characteristics of the flash array. Backups, databases apps, spinning up VMs and so many other business-critical processes will speed up five to ten times or more.

This flash effect will allow for changes to both the human and mechanical elements of the IT environment. Flash will free up human resources to focus on other revenue-generating business goals. Management can restructure how the use of human resources can be placed due to a much more efficient infrastructure. Secondly, server and other hardware can be powered down and consolidated due to the performance of the right all-flash arrays.

On the network side, the right flash array with all connectivity protocols at all speeds gives the enterprise future proof options when it comes to connectivity. Flash allows the enterprise to greatly alter how the IT infrastructure resources are allocated and eliminates the high demands from today’s applications on those resources.

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