Flash Storage: Sometimes Performance Is Not Enough

Did you ever hear the old adage that to a hammer everything looks like a nail? This is certainly true in the land of the all flash array. Such arrays are certainly the fastest storage array option available today, and for the foreseeable future. However, performance isn’t everything. It may indeed be the single most important feature for a given application, but it is certainly not the most important feature for every application. Not only can other applications have features that they feel are more important than performance, such applications might even feel that those features are so important that they are willing to forgo performance in order to have access to those features.

It comes down to the workload. For example, consider several common workloads: tier 1 applications, server virtualization, storage virtualization, large cloud infrastructures, and big data analytics. These often have very different needs for performance, data protection, resiliency, and cost.

Tier 1 applications such as an OLTP database can typically tie performance to revenue. That is a better performing system will result in more revenue, while a poor performing system hurts revenue by slowing how quickly it can be created. These applications get the best performing storage available – almost at any cost. These applications also demand a lot of the data protection system, but they don’t mind paying extra if the best-performing storage array is missing the features that it needs. Being able to calculate a direct ROI on your storage purchases enables a lot.

Strong performance is important for a storage virtualization project, as the performance definitely needs to be better than whatever the company is moving off of. However, other things may be just as important. If one is consolidating multiple NAS filers, user-based recovery of their own files can be quite important, as well as the need to assist in making the migration from the old to the new be as seamless as possible.

Large cloud environments can require a lot of performance, but they can also demand multi-tenant features. This is a perfect example of where a workload may choose to make a feature more important than performance. A large cloud environment that needs multi-tenant features will absolutely not purchase a storage system that does not have those features – regardless of the performance that it offers. A VDI environment needs strong performance, but perhaps only at certain times, such as a boot storm. Such an environment will also place a high priority on integration with the VDI hypervisor. Making it easy to provision, clone, and manage virtual desktops will be more important than performance. Performance will be important, of course, but given two systems of equal performance, a customer will pick the one that gives them more VDI features.

Big data applications have two main challenges: significant amounts of data that requires solid performance. But, since this data often does not directly impact revenue, the enterprise needs to buy this storage at the lowest cost possible. The best performing storage is nowhere near as important as storage you can afford for a given application.

StorageSwiss Take

Performance isn’t everything. Customers may always want the best performing storage, but what they really want is the best performing storage they can get that meets their requirements and the price point supported by the application. In addition, not every application needs tier 1 performance.

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W. Curtis Preston (aka Mr. Backup) is an expert in backup & recovery systems; a space he has been working in since 1993. He has written three books on the subject, Backup & Recovery, Using SANs and NAS, and Unix Backup & Recovery. Mr. Preston is a writer and has spoken at hundreds of seminars and conferences around the world. Preston’s mission is to arm today’s IT managers with truly unbiased information about today’s storage industry and its products.

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