At the FujiFilm Global IT Executive Summit there was a lot of discussion about data management and making sure the right data is on the right storage tier at the right time. Data management has been a core IT function for years. But a lot of vendors are suggesting you no longer need to tier data. The new message is you should simply put all of your data on a flash array and, voila, all your problems will go away. These vendors claim flash is not inexpensive enough to justify support for all types of data but the gains in operational simplicity will outweigh any additional expenditures on storage. If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is, especially in IT.
Fuzzy All-Flash Math
When an all-flash vendor claims price parity with a hard disk based array, you have to examine closely what they are comparing themselves to. The comparison is typically to a production class, high-performance hard disk system. This means 15K RPM drives and plenty of them. In that circumstance the all-flash vendors are absolutely correct. Flash is not only less expensive, it more than likely takes up less rack space. But simply installing flash may not solve all your performance problems, but that’s a blog for another day.
The “flash has reached price parity with disk” claim starts to fall apart when you compare flash storage to capacity hard disk and especially, dare I say it, tape. Now the flash vendors may say these comparisons are not fair, yet they are the ones claiming to can flatten your storage tiers down to a single tier.
There are two justifications to the flat storage tier strategy. The first is that flash is cheaper, which when compared to capacity devices simple math will show that it is not. The second is managing data is too hard and complex which means the additional cost of flash storage is justified by the simplicity it brings. Flash, under this justification, does not have to be cheaper than capacity storage it just has to be cheap enough that you can cost justify the simplicity.
The problem is that capacity storage, disk and tape, is significantly less expensive than flash. The other problem is that data management is not as hard as it used to be. There are turnkey solutions that can present object storage and tape storage as mountable network volumes and simply copy data to it. There are also plenty of solutions that will automatically move data from primary storage to secondary hard disk storage to tape storage. And LTFS, as we have discussed many times, provides an open tape format that can be read by virtually any operating system.
Applying data management and leveraging the various storage tiers available to you leads to a more cost effective storage infrastructure. It also improves data protection, data retention, data security and data reliability. The key is to understand data management, something that Storage Switzerland covers in our on demand webinar “The Art of Data Management“.