Enterprise Flash-Based Storage Adoption Is On The Rise

Historically, Flash-based storage has been considered to be a rather expensive niche technology that is targeted at a rather narrow range of workloads, as opposed to anything resembling mainstream technology.  According to an International Data Corporation (IDC) analysis, the tide is definitely beginning to turn to much broader adoption of Flash-based storage for data center usage.  The momentum for this change is being fueled by a combination of significant performance improvements as the technology matures, a broader range of available products, increasing levels of familiarity and comfort with the very real benefits of solid state storage technology, and steadily declining prices.

datacenterImage source: datacenterjournal.com

IDC conducted a survey of over 1000 IT storage administrators to gain insights into just how solid-state storage is being adopted in the enterprise as part of their biannual Storage User Demand Study (SUDS).  The study reveals critical details about both current and planned deployment of enterprise storage systems, and also solicits the forward-looking opinions of end users as to market developments and/or emerging technologies.

Intel datacenter SSD

According to Natalaya Yezhkova, Research Director of Storage Systems at IDC, “There are still plenty of end users who believe they do not have the workload demands or budgetary appetite for flash-based storage systems.  However, we anticipate that the increasing availability of flash-based products across a broader range of use cases, combined with improved vendor messaging and falling component prices, will mitigate the biggest concerns to enabling even broader adoption of flash in the future.”

IDC SSD market analysisImage source: IDC

We are seeing both startups and tier 1 vendors of flash storage products steadily broadening their product portfolios, both via new product development and via mergers and acquisitions.  This is in reaction to, and is proof of rapidly increasing interest in the technology from end users.  A subset of end users stills seems to be hung up on direct comparisons ($/GB) of HDD-based storage systems to Flash-based storage systems.  For certain usage scenarios involving certain types of data, their concerns may be valid.

Toshiba-NAND

However, in many other cases, their concerns may be due to a lack of appropriate tools or mechanisms that will allow these end users to measure what impact flash will have on their storage infrastructures’ performance, along with the secondary benefits of significantly reduced power and cooling requirements, and reduced IT management and maintenance costs (among others).  The key metric of total cost of ownership (TCO) is rapidly becoming a much more important measurement than a mere $/GB comparison.

SNIA TCO calculatorImage source: snia.org

Jeff Janukowicz, ITC’s Research Director for Solid State Drive and Enabling Technologies, observes that “To overcome the concerns of these users, vendors  and their channel partners need to not only keep the focus on the performance benefits of flash, but they also need to expand their messaging to include the secondary economic benefits it can provide as it is deployed in higher capacities.”

Fusion-io PCIe card

A number of storage system suppliers have been shipping flash-based systems for several years now, but end user interest in flash is really beginning to heat up.  To quote a popular Bachman Turner Overdrive tune:  “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet, Baby!”

IDC-Logo

You can view the IDC press release on its latest Storage User Demand Study in its entirety here.

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