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What is Flash Storage?

Hard disk next to ssd disk (solid state drive) blue technological background - tilt-shift lens used to accent the center of the hdd and to emphasize the attention their connections
November 28, 2016
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What is Flash Storage?

Flash storage has become a popular topic throughout the information technology realm. So, what is it, and how does it change the storage game?
When it comes to workload performance, engineers are always looking for potential bottlenecks. A brief review of history will show a constant leapfrogging of processor, memory and disk speeds.  Every system admin and application developer knew that the fastest place to pull data from was memory, however, systems were extremely limited by how much memory a system could hold.  Another issue is the fact that RAM memory is not a persistent storage device, meaning that once power is removed from the chip, the data that it holds will be lost.  It was not until chip manufacturers could create a chip small enough, with enough storage density, that it became practical to design a long-term storage device that would hold persistent data.

What Gives Flash the Leading Edge

Speed, space, power, cost-effectiveness and low rate of failure—these are the benefits that flash storage brings.

A recent post on TechTarget’s Storage Soup blog accurately summed up the improvements flash storage provides:

  • Consolidation – Greater performance levels enable the ability to deploy additional diverse workloads on one system. Additionally, greater capacity systems allow workloads operating on multiple spinning disk systems to be consolidated into one flash storage system.
  • Acceleration – Acceleration makes more transactions and the number of supported VMs and desktops possible.
  • Physical space – Flash technology increases chip capacity, requiring less physical space.
  • Power and cooling – Storage devices using flash technology use less power and generate less heat than devices with moving parts, directly resulting in cost reduction.
  • Longevity –The physical reliability of flash devices are markedly different from devices with a lot of moving parts, such that many manufacturers offer guarantees for up to 10 years. Total cost of ownership becomes considerably more reasonable over the lifespan of usage.
  • Reduction in tuning – Performance tuning is very rarely needed, eliminating the need to assess performance issues or balance workloads.

Comparing Today’s Storage Offerings

Today, flash storage is hands-down the fastest and most efficient storage technology available. Here are the most common options for processing workloads compared side-by-side:

Spinning Disk

Tape

Flash

Speed

Fast.

Useful for fast restores.

The maximum throughput of an LTO drive is 280 MB per second (2:1 compression).

 

Useful for fast writing.

Getting the tape to a fast speed is the drawback. In order to keep the drive up to a speed like 280 MB per second, a powerful backup server and source drive array or network backup clients would be required.

 

Very fast.

Speeds exceed 500MB/s per second for both reading and writing, as listed by TechTarget.

Useful for a wide variety of environments requiring high speeds.

Comparative Cost

High

Low

Medium/High

Capacity

Limited and similar to Flash; disk shelves are the same for both.

High (and potentially infinite), since you can swap out tapes as they fill up without changing the space required in a rack.

Limited and similar to Spinning Disk; dish shelves are the same for both

Physical Components

Mechanical disks are made of many moving parts, and aren’t particularly strong. This mean they can fail at any time, as explained by ServerWatch.

Tape drives contain many moving parts, both in the drive and media.

Tape drives are also vulnerable to attracting dust particles.

Wear and tear happens relatively quickly.

Flash storage involves no moving parts, which significantly decreases the chances of failure.

Peak 10’s Use Cases for Flash Storage

Flash technology is often leveraged for High I/O storage and caching for storage acceleration. At Peak 10, we integrate flash storage for both storage efficiency and acceleration use cases within multiple solution offerings.

High I/O Storage

Storage Acceleration

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About Peak 10

"Our values are the foundation for everything we do at Peak 10, and are ultimately what enable us to earn our customers' business and their trust."
David H. Jones,
Board Member, Peak 10 + ViaWest