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How Flash Storage Adds Value To The Network

The need for speed is one of the most disputed concepts in the realm of enterprise IT -- after all, speed costs money and sometimes “fast enough” suffices. On the other hand, systems that are too slow also cost money, either in reduced transactions, lost productivity, or missed deadlines.

Today, speed considerations are winning out. Nowhere does this seem truer than with the adoption of flash-based storage arrays in enterprises around the world, where speed is being sold as a pathway to increased revenue. The financial argument that speed equals money has driven many enterprises to investigate flash pools, tiered storage, and SSD arrays, all in a quest to derive more value from the network.

Still, flash is expensive and the cost per terabyte is many times more expensive than spinning media. For CTOs, budgets remain a major concern; they need more than theoretical promises to pry corporate budget dollars from the hands of ever-vigilant CFOs. CTOs need to also believe in the technology and offer demonstrable facts to back up those budgetary requests.

It all comes down to being able to demonstrate to the budget masters that the organization cannot afford not to invest in flash-based storage technologies, an argument that requires translating technical prowess into business objectives that clearly state the value of flash.

So, what exactly can flash deliver to the enterprise? This is surprisingly simple to answer, as long as one has the facts. The advantages offered by flash are speed, reliability, scalability, and productivity, mixed together to deliver value.

On the speed front, flash can offer performance some 50 times faster that spinning media; locate that flash storage close to the CPUs in use; and offers capabilities such as real-time analytics, in-memory processing. And with flash, a host of other applications that demand performance become available in the enterprise.

Leveraging that increased performance leads to productivity gains; whether it is based on faster analytics or more transactions processed per second doesn't really matter. What does matter is that there is a measurable gain in productivity, something tangible that can be used to back a business case.

[Get tips on the best ways to use flash in the data center in "SSDs: A Guide To Using Flash in the Datacenter."]

Reliability is another positive offered by flash. Today’s NAND devices offer mean time between failures (MTBF) estimates that spinning disk media cannot approach. What’s more, the elimination of moving parts, lower power usage, and less heat generation are all benefits that can be readily associated with flash enterprise storage, all of which adds up to operational savings and reduced stress on the remaining infrastructure. This is something that could readily be translated to reduced downtime, which, in turn, delivers additional savings.

With scale in mind, flash storage is quickly becoming the heir apparent to traditional SAN and NAS storage arrays. There are a number of reasons why it is easier to scale-up with flash-based storage -- ranging from the increased density offered by storage arrays built on flash to the ability to almost instantly provision the storage.

Moreover, flash arrays -- which are normally built with SSD-based hard drives -- are more compact, thanks to the diminutive size of the drives themselves. Add to that reduced power and cooling needs and it becomes easy to see how dozens of drives can be crammed into smaller arrays, reducing the physical footprint of storage and the operational cost as well.

Those arguments, along with productivity gains, should be all a CTO needs to turn CFOs into believers and wrangle the needed budget dollars to leverage flash to its fullest.