Flash Is Solid State Strong
How Flash Has Stood the Test of Time
Do you take notes still? Maybe on paper with a pen because it helps you retain information better. Or do you prefer the digital experience of typing the words out but still getting the same experience of still taking notes? I just purchased a new monitor and was cleaning up the desktop space to make a new home for my baby, the new envy of the office. It’s definitely more popular than I am these days. In this fit of cleaning and preparing I stumbled across some old notebooks. One of my old notebooks was a think journal, one of my colleagues used to call it the “Bible.”
Yes, it was kind of big as far as notebooks go. So there I was, thumbing through the old Bible, starting at the beginning of course. First entry was from 2007 – summer time, ironic given it’s, well, summer now. Ah, yes the notes from the meeting. This meeting was pretty epic in fact. I met with this same company in 2005. At that time they were a small start-up that had just taken in VC money. We were there to talk about the 20TB of storage they needed. Good discussion but nothing materialized. Fast Forward two years and we are now talking again. We’d just closed out some pretty significant business and were meeting to discuss technology roadmaps. Pay attention, this is where it gets interesting…
During the discussion one of the key engineers off in the corner, responding to the question “Oh you think solid state is important?” Answer, “Um…yes we do, it will revolutionize the data center and entire industry.” That’s it, then back to staring at his screen and typing away.
From that point forward it has been happening. The company we met with invested in solid state starting in 2008 and has not looked back. In 2007, it may have been unconventional to think about spending that kind of money on solid state in your data center. Fast forward 8 years and solid state is the new wonder child technology in the data center and every vendor now has a strategy. The trend can’t be missed, and while I’m not going to debate if disk is dead, the importance of solid state to your architecture is profound. Why?
A few reasons:
Flash was a Ferrari, now it is a Tesla.
Flash in the early days was about one thing: Performance. Make your applications go faster, you need your data faster, hence you have a Ferrari. Goes extremely fast, you have some controls at your fingertips to manage, but not much else. Now your requirements have progressed and turned into a mainstream storage solution with more intelligence, better management features, better data protection features and so on. Hence, you now have a Tesla. It still makes your applications go faster, but you have a better experience because the solutions are actually designed to highlight a much better experience while still delivering on the previous value. You have faster access to your data.
MLC beats SLC.
SLC was awesome stuff but it was low capacity density and extremely expensive to manufacture. It kept the growth of the market tamped down when it really wanted to take off. Enter MLC, it has much higher capacity density and it is cheaper to manufacture. Market adoption of MLC takes off. Keep in mind there are more differences between SLC and MLC, but the prevailing investments that are made today by the enterprise are MLC based. Sorry SLC . 🙁
Good old fashion competition.
I have not done an exact count of companies selling solid state or Flash based solutions, in fact I stopped counting when it hit 50. The good news for the enterprise is that with the market is maturing and more companies are offering solutions; prices are starting to drop in the market. Pushing this price curve down is also a bit of Moore’s Law with Flash chips (see previous comments about MLC being higher density and cheaper).
Taking these three points into consideration and packaging them together, you now have the business case to justify the investment in solid state as a technology in your architecture. Where do you put it and why are completely different discussions. Perhaps this is a topic for another blog someday soon. Fundamentally, the investments will pay off. Instead of focusing on the higher cost of solid state, start looking at the investment as an enabler of business growth, driving better service levels, increasing reporting capacity, reducing supply chain refill process batch times and everything else you do to make your business successful.
Director of Solutions Architecture