Silicon is the darling of the storage world: Out with spinning disks, in with flash chips. There is a lot to like about solid-state storage. It offers faster I/O, lower latency and power consumption, and instant-on from sleep states for lightning-fast access to cold data, all from smaller components easily adapted to a variety of form factors. Indeed, flash memory's miniscule use of space and power are a key enabler of mobile devices and the reason SSDs are displacing HDDs in most laptops.
But in datacenters, where storage requirements are measured in petabytes, not terabytes, flash must be used opportunistically. Despite the claims of some solid-state proponents, the all-flash datacenter is still years from becoming a reality, as described in InformationWeek's 2014 State of Storage report. But the price per bit differential between flash and disk is narrowing, albeit from a very wide gap, meaning it's rational and economical to use SSDs in more and more applications.
There are four major categories of flash product: server-side PCIe cards and SSDs, hybrid flash-HDD storage arrays, and all-flash systems using either SSDs or proprietary memory cards. The State of Storage survey found that 40% of respondents make use of SSDs in arrays, up 8 points since 2013.
However, all-flash arrays are still a niche, deployed by only 16%, with a mere 3% using them extensively. Thirty-nine percent of respondents use solid state in servers, up 10 points, with the vast majority (83%) opting for SSDs over PCIe adapters. But server deployments are still selective, with almost two-thirds of respondents using solid state in no more than 20% of their servers.
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