Why Flash is such a big deal in the enterprise

By Evan Unrue, Chief Technologist, IoT, Analytics & Cognitive EMEA 

Flash storage

Why is Flash’s impact likely to continue to expand?

At the point of its entry into the market, the All-Flash Array gained its appeal through jaw dropping performance, primarily to those with specific use cases that demanded they do something different to address the high performance storage requirements, such as high performance OLTP database environments and large-scale virtual desktop deployments.

However, All-Flash Arrays for many were still seen to be cost prohibitive when you looked at the cost per Gigabyte only, and there was also a maturity concern to be addressed. Enterprise Flash Technology adoption started in the form of hybrid or server side flash deployments early on, leveraging features such as caching which utilised SSD or tiering of data across SSD Drives and traditional hard disk drives. The principle was simple in so much as the hottest, most active data would sit on the fastest disk and cold data on the larger, slower disk.

However, since flash technology has had access to the large R&D budgets of enterprise storage technology vendors, the innovation around SSD technology has moved beyond just advances at the silicon level and into the broader context of storage array technology.
Mature storage features such as deduplication and compression that previously thrived in near line storage technologies around backup and archive arrays, have since found a home in the All-Flash Array market. Coupled with increases in CPU performance, storage services such as deduplication and compression are able to run in real-time on All-Flash Arrays with negligible overheads. With the cost of SSD reducing at the manufacturing layer, the combined effect has been a reduction in the cost per Gigabyte of All-Flash Arrays. In many cases this is now delivering price parity in-line with traditional storage arrays, as well as delivering operational cost savings around power, cooling and management complexity.

With all these things in mind, the likes of Gartner are tracking the compound annual growth rate of SSD at 20% between 2015 and 2019, with traditional HDD sales tracking at 4%, expecting SSD revenues to equal those of HDD in 2017.

With the maturity benefits coming through for SSD in terms of cost and enterprise grade storage features, organisations who are tasked with more transformational reform in how they implement IT to support their business now have the platform on which they can layer innovation, alongside all the other industry advances in compute, networking and security. If you add that arterial vein, “Software Defined everything” you now have the next generation datacentre.

To read more, visit our IBM storage hub, and download our Flash and Beyond guide.

Posted under Storage

This post was written by on April 19, 2017

The Economic Realities of All-Flash Arrays Today

By Evan Unrue, Chief Technologist, IoT, Analytics & Cognitive EMEA 

Evan Unrue

Evan Unrue, Chief Technologist, IoT, Analytics & Cognitive EMEA, Technology Solutions, now part of Tech Data.

In the past, the economic viability of All-Flash Arrays was based primarily on cost per IO (a performance metric denoting price/performance).

Those companies running heavily storage transactional application estates found a friend in flash technology as they could achieve what previously needed racks and racks of spinning disk, all being managed to within an inch of it’s life, in a much smaller footprint and at a much lower cost. These cost reductions were in both Capex and Opex due to the substantial reduction in space, power requirements, cooling requirements and management complexity.

Through the pace of innovation from both drive manufacturers and enterprise storage vendors, we have seen major advances in the economic value of Flash technology driving its adoption in the modern business, specifically:

  • Reduction in cost.
  • Driving down power and cooling costs.
  • Reducing the physical footprint of flash storage arrays.
  • Allowing companies to choose the flash technology most suitable to their requirements.
  • Surplus of storage performance to service more workloads with Flash.

With all this in mind, there is no reason why companies can’t put flash everywhere, servicing mixed application workloads, rather than just the performance hungry monster applications.

This proliferation of flash throughout the datacentre has become a real catalyst for companies to explore what they could do next, rather than micromanaging the cost and complexity of the storage they have today.

Enterprise Strategy Group recently published a detailed economic analysis of the benefits of IBM’s all-flash solution against traditional Tier 1 performance HDD-based arrays. (This study was commissioned by IBM).

The report determined that in a typical enterprise use case:

  • The all-flash arrays delivered a 76% return on investment and an 11-month payback period, compared to traditional storage.
  • The IBM solution also delivered additional performance benefits of about $1.2 million over a three-year period.
  • Those arrays also enabled upfront Capex savings of nearly $600,000, as well as incremental savings for ongoing Opex savings of nearly $400,000.

The ESG report also pointed out several key takeaways about the economic benefits of IBM’s all-flash arrays, notably the substantial business benefit created even by flash deployments for very small amounts of persistent data.

To read more, visit our IBM storage hub, and download our Flash and Beyond guide.

Posted under Storage

This post was written by on April 12, 2017

Choosing Flash Storage

Evan_Unrue_Chief Technologist, IoT, Analytics and Cognitive EMEA

Evan Unrue, Chief Technologist, IoT, Analytics & Cognitive EMEA, Technology Solutions, now part of Tech Data.

By Evan Unrue, Chief Technologist, IoT, Analytics & Cognitive EMEA

Now the All-Flash Array has developed some maturity in the market, it is important to look beyond just how blisteringly fast it is and to make your use cases based on other key features such as availability, management, flexibility and how well it will grow with your business. Couple this with how you integrate with your IT environment and meeting compliance requirements like GDPR and you can find what you are looking for. Below are a few key things to look out for:

  • Data Reduction
  • Storage Virtualisation features
  • Disaster Recovery tools
  • Scale Out Features
  • Performance Management
  • Flash Management
  • Orchestration & Automation Support
  • Compatibility/Interoperability
  • Easy deployment

As the use cases for All Flash Arrays broadens beyond targeted performance centric requirements, it is important to ensure systems stand up to general enterprise requirements. Don’t fall into the trap of being blinded by shiny performance figures without ensuring the system has mature enterprise software features to boot.

It is important to think about what is most important to your use case when looking at All Flash Array technologies. Is it just point performance for your database you’re looking for, maybe it’s flexibility or is the ability to process large volumes of data quickly for a new analytics platform?

There will continue to be to be a raft of different form factors from the monolithic scale up storage array, to the scale out and hyper-converged, software defined approaches. These will all become more synonymous with next generation 3rd platform approaches to IT and As a Service or Cloud platforms. The bottom line is ensuring the one you choose provides future proofing for your business.

To read more, visit our IBM storage hub, and download our Flash and Beyond guide.

Posted under Storage

This post was written by on April 5, 2017

Flavours of Flash Storage

By Anthony Greenhalgh, Business Group Director – EMEA Strategic Suppliers, Technology Solutions, now part of Tech Data.

 

Anthony Greenhalgh, Business Group Director – EMEA Strategic Suppliers, Technology Solutions, now part of Tech Data.

Anthony Greenhalgh, Business Group Director – EMEA Strategic Suppliers, Technology Solutions, now part of Tech Data.

Flash was once most commonly associated with consumer grade memory and found in products such as smartphones and digital cameras. Today, flash storage solutions offer levels of reliability and availability at a price that organisations of all sizes can afford. So what can you do to get started with flash storage? Here are five top tips for getting started. And for those of you who are already involved, find out how to maximise your revenue potential. Remember, it’s not just about performance but also about reducing space and running costs within data centres.

 

1.     Flash storage has multiple uses

Flash delivers the high performance that many applications and architectures now demand. This makes it the right technology to deliver exceptional functionality in the worlds of finance and life sciences, for example. It’s also valid for all businesses looking for speed and savings. The reality is that most companies need a mix of traditional disk and flash drives.

 

2.     Forget about the price tag

Cost was once a major barrier to the adoption of flash solutions. However, this is no longer the case. Per gigabyte, the cost of flash storage has tumbled in recent years. This, coupled with the reliability and total cost of ownership (TCO) benefits, means that flash based storage is becoming affordable for everyone from large organisations to small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs).

 

3.     Speed and space

It’s important to know what’s most valued by the customer. The answer is probably both capacity and speed. Traditional storage is priced on capacity, which means potentially paying a premium for faster disks. The more you want to store, the more you pay. However, flash is targeted at speeding up applications and removing the performance bottleneck from storage. The secret is to get the balance right with a well-priced hybrid solution, while selling flash for its performance characteristics rather than its physical capacity.

 

4.     Set up a storage seed box

Seeing is believing. There is nothing quite like a proof-of-concept exercise, where end users are able to experience the benefits of flash. Installing a storage seed box to safely download and upload files at very high speeds is the best way to set up a demo. Technology Solutions helps partners to upskill to reap financial rewards and strengthen customer loyalty. So talk to us about the different flavours of flash.

Flash-based storage will not entirely replace spinning disks in the near future, however, demand is growing and the technology has gained substantial market adoption due to its clear performance and viable cost benefits. Channel partners have an opportunity to support their customers through this transition. Flash presents an exciting revenue generating opportunity, but only for those willing to make a change and give it a try.

 

Posted under Uncategorized

This post was written by on March 15, 2017

Avnet makes a push into IoT through Mars rover demo

Avnet is going out of this world to show customers that they are industry leaders in the universe of IoT (Internet of Things) solutions. In November at the inaugural IoT Emerge event in Chicago, Avnet used a Mars rover mock-up to demonstrate a complete IoT-enabled application.

IMG_3059

Visitors to Avnet’s fully interactive exhibit could ‘drive’ the rover around a Mars-like terrain and watch it send telemetry back from the surface of the ‘planet’ to a display screen. This allowed people to engage with various elements of the IoT solution including, integrated sensing, security and cloud connectivity.

John Weber, IoT technical solutions manager, says the idea of a Mars rover exhibit originated from the philosophy of Avnet helping customers go further. “We came up with the Mars theme because in the end, Mars is pretty far out there. And so, I thought, what sort of internet connected things would be relevant to that.”

With help from partners, Software Productivity Strategists (SPS), Weber and his team built three Mars rovers. Each Mars rover is a modified 1/16 scale remote-controlled rock crawler that’s topped by a board stack. It’s also equipped with a USB backup battery, which powers the boards on top. The boards are made up of Avnet’s IoT starter kit and a sensing board from NXP Semiconductors.

“We used our IoT starter kit, which has everything a customer needs to capture sensor data and send it to the internet,” says Weber. But his team also needed a way to digitize data and include a meaningful user interface. “We had sensors from NXP and our IoT starter kit, but we needed to bring that all together along with the third element, the cloud.” The rovers were originally built in about four weeks. Avnet had all the hardware for the rovers, and also developed the firmware. SPS built out the user interface for the rover demo.

So how did we do it?

When people visited the Avnet booth, they were able to remotely control the rover around the foam Mars terrain (a 6-foot by 8-foot piece of foam), whilst the rover was capturing the acceleration and gyroscope data. “Earth’s gravity is an acceleration vector and we capture that vector as part of it,” says Weber. “The gyroscope indicates how fast the rover is turning in three different axes.” Also, on board the rover is a digital compass, which shows what direction the rover is pointed.

MarsGraphic

The team programmed the IoT starter kit to capture sensor data at 10 times per second, changed the format into JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) and sent it to their IBM Bluemix application. The data then goes to IBM Watson IoT Foundation, the messaging service which connects to the rover and receiving messages. Users can then view the live data and real-time analytics. This is very similar to what Avnet’s customers are doing when they’re building an IoT connected product.

The rover’s message

Weber explained, “We want customers to come to us if they have a need like this because we can help them with the entire solution, through our design and support capabilities. We’re not talking about just a board they are putting together or a sensor they are building, but the entire solution.” Avnet has the ability to do this through partnerships it has with other companies — to help customers create the complete solution. The idea behind this experiment was to showcase that the rover is relevant to IoT in the sense that we’re still talking about ‘the edge’ being the rover, ‘enterprise’ being the cloud, and then making use of the data one way or the other.

Avnet already has a tremendous technology portfolio in IoT. Mindful that it needs to continually innovate, Avnet is looking at adding more value and making customers’ lives a lot easier by adding services and capabilities that push them higher in the value stack.

Avnet has the ability to provide all the ingredients, including world-class engineers that customers use to design their products. “IoT is much more than just the pieces and bits that make up a board. It’s about an entire system,” says Weber.

 

Posted under Internet of Things (IoT)

This post was written by on February 20, 2017