Flash Back: The Perils of Siloed Storage + Thinking Beyond Just Performance

Image: Charlotte Bartlett

IT organizations have adopted virtualization to improve server utilization, and the move is also driving changes in storage architectures. These organizations are looking beyond the traditional siloed approach to storage, in which storage is dedicated to a specific application or a small set of applications, toward shared storage architectures. Shared storage systems allow numerous applications to store data on the same system and access that data more quickly and efficiently. With shared storage architectures, organizations can simplify operations, drive efficiencies, grow infinitely, enable business agility, and offer nonstop operation.

Flash memory technology is having a profound impact on storage architectures thanks to its significant performance characteristics and low power consumption. Its performance characteristics have grabbed the attention of enterprises, and many storage vendors are working diligently to assure customers that their approach to using flash provides the best combination of price and performance.

All-flash arrays : good for some

There are many approaches to implementing flash in enterprise storage systems, and flash can provide different performance characteristics depending on where in the storage architecture it is used. For example, much attention has been given lately to all-flash arrays that dedicate an all-flash storage device to a specific application. All-flash arrays are a good storage solution for applications that require extreme performance and consistent response times and that have modest dataset sizes. But not all application workloads meet these criteria, so implementing an expensive all-flash array doesn’t make sense for all applications. Applied too broadly, dedicated all-flash storage returns enterprises to the inefficient siloed storage model described above.

A hybrid approach to shared storage design

For most organizations, a shared storage architecture that uses a mix of flash and traditional hard disk drives (HDDs) provides the right level of performance for the majority of enterprise applications. Hybrid flash/HDD storage environments provide a number of benefits beyond improved performance. They offer greater efficiency and lower operational costs, and, operated in a shared storage model, can dynamically allocate data to the highest-performing storage media. These benefits, and several others, will be discussed in a future article focusing on what enterprises should know about flash storage solutions before they move forward with one. 

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photo credit: Scarlet Creative (Charlotte Bartlett) via photopin cc

Tim Russell

Tim Russell is vice president of Data Lifecycle Ecosystem Solutions at NetApp. Tim leads a team responsible for driving NetApp solutions to manage data from creation through long term retention.This includes NetApp’s content repository, data protection, long term retention and high I/O performance solutions and the integration with ecosystem partners.


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  1. There are 2 big problems with the “shared” approach. 
    One is security.  A compromised application will be able to alter data of other applications.
    Two is performance.  Allowing multiple applications to utilize a single storage subsystem can severely limit the amount of bandwidth available to each app causing bandwidth hogs to slow an entire system.
    Three is storage allocation.  You still need a means to limit the amount of storage used by an application

  2. To followup on my last comment…
    There’s a reason we moved away from centralized storage ala 1960’s mainframes.  It’s more expensive and it gives lower performance when things are centralized.  The only plus of centralization is better IT control.

  3. as far as end user, SSD drives aka “flash drives” are the best thing since hot food. on the desktop speed is king and the flash drives are without equal. for a laptop there is the added advantage of extremely low power usage. nothing to do with siloed storage, but everything to do with flash memory.

  4. Tim, don’t forget to mention that flash memory often has a limited number of P/E cycles. usually around 100K. After that, there will be lots of read/write errors.  The other downside to flash is its susceptibility to ESD damage.

  5. Still waiting on IBM’s Cube memory.

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