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Flash Becoming the Storage of Choice at Data Centres

Wikibon are a group of practitioners and consultants on technology and business systems. They share their research open source, free for all. They research and report on a variety of topics like big data, cloud and infrastructure.

Some of their latest research claims that flash will completely replace disk as the primary choice for data storage in enterprise and hyper-scale cloud data centres. This will apparently happen over the next ten years.

Disk has ruled for decades and is the standard of data storage. Disk will still be used for archival and low-access rate data, simply because it’s the cheapest method of storage, but where fast access is necessary it’ll be flash that’s used.

The reason that Wikibon cites for flash taking over is because the cost of it continues to drop. It’s a new technology and can’t fully benefit from economies of scale like disk can – but it’s getting there, both in the enterprise and consumer world.

Flash is also much more efficient. It’s not mechanical, so isn’t prone to failure in that regard, but perhaps mostly importantly it offers far greater speeds because of it. When you can get up to 100x speed improvements by changing your data storage method, with no knock-on effect or reconfiguration required for applications, you can see why it’s appealing.

Some analysts have concerns that there’s not enough manufacturing capacity to cater for enterprise or hyper-scale flash use, but this is dismissed by Wikibon. They’ve found the contrary, that there is sufficient NAND flash manufacturing capacity to meet the enterprise demand.

One of the analysts, David Floyer, studied the project per-TB cost for flash and disk drives. Starting from 2012 and projecting to 2026, he found that “the price umbrella of 10 times or greater over the storage media costs that protects the incumbent vendors is under severe pressure.”

Part of the projection for the sudden decrease in flash cost is thanks to 3D NAND. SanDisk have recently joined Samsung, Intel and Micron in the list of companies who are bringing 3D NAND into production, which could see things like 10 TB USB drives hitting the market.

“The rapidly lowering cost and higher performance of flash will result in a rapid adoption of flash to replace magnetic drives. Flash together with Systems of Intelligence will enable the integration of Big Data analysis into operational systems, and automate many decisions,” stated Floyer.

The action at the end of the report is addressed to CIO and senior storage executives, urging them to plan their move from HDDs to NAND flash storage over the next few years. As a result of this, they will need to plan completely different organisational and operational environments.

Only time will tell if Wikibon’s reports will come to fruition, but we can hope it does. Flash is the greater storage medium and seeing its costs drop will be beneficial to all.

For more information on Wikibon, and to request to read their ‘Enterprise Flash vs HDD Projections 2012-2026’ report, refer to their official websitee.

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