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EMC World 2015: Flash Storage Is Ready for All Workloads

Not long ago, flash storage was relegated to specialized workloads, but now, more businesses are making the leap to majority- or all-flash arrays.

Flash storage, which costs more than traditional hard-disk drives or tape storage, used to be siloed for use in workloads that truly required its speed advantages in reading and writing data.

But these days, businesses both small and large are deciding to go further with flash storage in their data centers.

“The conversation has changed from ‘Why flash?’ to ‘Why not flash?’ ” says Danny Cobb, vice president and distinguished engineer of flash at EMC. “Flash has reached a really interesting point in its maturity and is becoming a shared platform for all IT workloads.”

One of the major announcements at EMC World in Las Vegas was around the company’s all-flash array product, XtremIO.

EMC released 40TB X-Brick building blocks, which double the previous available density; that adds up to more than 300TB in an eight-brick configuration, according to the company’s news release. This increase in capacity is a direct response to EMC customers who demanded more capacity because they’re using flash storage more broadly, Cobb says.

Version 4.0 of the XtremIO software for the XtremIO arrays enables organizations to quickly innovate and address new application ecosystems. Furthermore, it provides improved integration with Microsoft, Oracle and other snapshot technologies, Cobb says.

The Need for Flash Speed in Financial Services

The financial services industry has been an early adopter of flash storage largely because its high-volume, high-speed business demands it.

To illustrate how fast financial services technology must perform, Cobb points to the millisecond that credit card clearinghouses have to accept or reject a transaction once it comes through.

“The budget for that has always been short because it’s part of a longer transaction that has to go on,” Cobb says.

Flash storage won’t decrease the acceptance time to less than a millisecond because that’s already extremely efficient. But it can help a clearinghouse complete additional tasks within that millisecond beyond accepting or rejecting the transaction.

“Financial services organizations can consider a deeper set of histories and other kinds of buying behaviors, like geography. Anything that might indicate fraudulent activity,” Cobb says. “All of these things can be considered in that millisecond.”

Flash Storage in the SMB Space

While many might assume that larger enterprises are more likely to adopt the more costly flash-storage arrays because they have larger budgets, small and medium-sized businesses have not been sitting out the great flash race.

“The adoption of flash in the SMB space is a lot bigger than we expected,” says Mark Geel, senior product marketing manager of core technologies at EMC.

He attributes this increase in flash adoption among SMBs to flash storage's decrease in cost and increase in endurance.

There’s also been a shift in the use cases for flash among SMBs.

“The big workload for flash was VDI, but that’s changed now more to databases,” Geel says. “Databases are leveraging flash more so than in the past.”

Within the SMB space, EMC’s VNX and VNXe products have proved particularly popular. The two products are hybrid flash storage solutions that offer automated tiering, which is essential for smaller organizations that don’t have the staff to do manual tiering, Geel says.

And for SMBs interested in going all-flash with VNX, EMC announced that it is offering an under-$25,000, all-flash version of the VNXe3200; the company claims it “is the most affordable unified [all-flash array] in its class.”

New Development Cycles Inspire Virtual VNX

While the buzz was strong around pushing the limits of flash storage, there was also a major announcement that the company is offering a software-defined version of the VNX storage product, called virtual VNX (vVNX Community Edition), for free. This product is meant for testing environments, and it comes after EMC customers said they’d like to quickly stand up virtual instances of VNX for development purposes.

“We think it’s very interesting. A lot of current VNX customers will want to utilize it and play with it,” Geel says.

EMC
May 08 2015

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