How to Avoid the All-Flash Capacity Glut

Next generation all-flash arrays (AFA) face a serious problem; they will provide more capacity than most data centers need. While too much capacity doesn’t sound like a problem it will be because organizations are still going to pay for it. The problem is that most AFAs typically need 24 drives to deliver anything close to the performance organizations expect from an AFA investment. Flash drives are now available in 16TB capacities, which means an entry level AFA will deliver 384TBs of capacity. AFA vendors need to overcome their software inefficiencies or they face a very difficult challenge to explain capacity glut.

When all-flash drives were 1TB or smaller, most organizations needed to buy well over 24 drives, but now 24 drives (a.k.a. 384TBs) will more than cover all the needs of production storage in many data centers. For many AFA vendors these are the minimum configurations. Those that offer a 12 drive alternative will see a significant drop in performance, despite the fact that many of these high capacity drives are rated to deliver 70,000 IOPS or more. Again, that is 70K IOPS PER DRIVE, yet many 12 drive systems can’t deliver more than 30,000 IOPS. Given the raw performance of an SSD, a 24 drive system should deliver about 1.5 million IOPS!

The problem is that most storage vendors have built their software code using legacy techniques. They haven’t rethought the algorithms that drive the core of the storage system and they haven’t adapted them to take advantage of multi-core processors. Part of the reason for this development approach is time to market, because by leveraging legacy code and legacy techniques they are able to bring products to market faster.

The problem with the legacy techniques is these vendors now face embarrassing conversations around capacity and performance. The situation only gets worse as flash drives increase in performance and capacity. In a year it is not unreasonable to expect a single flash drive to be able to deliver more than 100,000 IOPS and 50TBs plus of capacity.

The answer is for vendors to take the time and rewrite storage software from the ground up for the modern era. Vendors need to rethink storage algorithms and take full advantage of multi-core processors. Doing so means that many data centers can meet their capacity and performance needs with five or six flash drives and modest Intel CPUs.

With today’s technology, a six drive system should deliver 96TBs of capacity and almost half a million IOPS using midrange Intel CPUs. In our on demand webinar “How to Design a 92TB, 500K IOPS AFA for less than $95,000!” we discuss the why of creating a 500K IOPS AFA for less than $95,000 and why we haven’t seen vendors come to market with this type of solution. Then we showcase an example of a system actually hitting these price, performance and capacity goals.

George Crump is the Chief Marketing Officer at VergeIO, the leader in Ultraconverged Infrastructure. Prior to VergeIO he was Chief Product Strategist at StorONE. Before assuming roles with innovative technology vendors, George spent almost 14 years as the founder and lead analyst at Storage Switzerland. In his spare time, he continues to write blogs on Storage Switzerland to educate IT professionals on all aspects of data center storage. He is the primary contributor to Storage Switzerland and is a heavily sought-after public speaker. With over 30 years of experience designing storage solutions for data centers across the US, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS, SAN, Virtualization, Cloud, and Enterprise Flash. Before founding Storage Switzerland, he was CTO at one of the nation's largest storage integrators, where he was in charge of technology testing, integration, and product selection.

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