- Flash Array
Solid state memory is poised to replace rotating
disk in the data center.
While the rest of the data center benefits from continuing breakthroughs in silicon technology, storage remains stuck in a mechanical world, where each access to data waits for the disk head to seek and platter to rotate, inserting millisecond pauses between microsecond data transfers. Virtualization and data consolidation are driving up the demand for random input/output (I/O) at the same time that disk drive performance is falling. The result is an I/O crisis in storage.
Multi-core processors and virtualized server and desktop architectures drive up processor utilization and hence also the demand for I/O per server. In the virtualized datacenter, it is now commonly I/O performance that limits server consolidation ratios, not CPU or memory.
Virtualization has the effect of multiplexing multiple logical workloads across a single physical I/O path. The greater the consolidation achieved through virtualization, the more randomized the physical I/O requests become. And random I/O is the Achilles heel of the rotational disk drive, because seek and rotational latency dominate transfer times 20 to 1.
While the demand for IOPS is growing, the supply is actually shrinking. The I/O rate to a single hard drive is roughly constant (disk drives can only spin so fast), while their capacity doubles every 18 months or so, meaning their performance per GB is declining. The traditional solution has been to add more and more hard drives (parallelization), but this only addresses the challenge if less and less data is stored per disk, making them even less efficient in power and space. Solid state storage avoids this loss of efficiency, even that resulting from the old system's solution attempts.
Watch the flash technology "Deep Dive" video with Michael Cornwell
Flash memory has transformed the market for consumer devices, allowing manufacturers to deliver revolutionary products in form factors not possible with rotating disk. Flash is poised to have an equally disruptive effect on the enterprise storage market by applying solid state storage to tier 1 applications in the data center. Here's why:
Flash memory excels at random I/O performance, offering greater than 10x gains in I/Os per second (IOPS). A solid state storage solution based on flash has no seek time, no rotational latency, and is equally fast on random workloads as on sequential ones. Flash can accelerate virtual server and desktop deployments while affording higher consolidation and greater efficiency. Flash can also accelerate SQL and NoSQL workloads without partitioning or changes to the application. And flash can substantially reduce the need to overprovision DRAM and solve cache consistency issues.
With flash memory, any block of data can be fetched in nearly constant time. This means that applications can be designed to expect sub-millisecond latency no matter what the I/O stream (random or sequential) or data distribution. The truth is, solid state storage can not only deliver a dramatic improvement in application performance, but also enable "wow, what is possible now?" moments for your application architects.
Power and space are often capped for a specific data center footprint. When you reach capacity, it often means an expensive build-out, migration, or a whole new data center. Solid state storage uses 10x less power and space than rotational hard drives, allowing you to substantially expand capacity in place.
At Pure Storage we are redesigning enterprise storage to optimally leverage flash. If you have particularly demanding storage workloads, you may be a good candidate for evaluation.