Wikibon: Memory Matters

InsightaaS: Wikibon is one of the Internet’s best sources of IT industry insight — an open source community of world-leading analysts that has its roots in storage and system research, and has evolved to be a leader in understanding software-led infrastructure, Big Data, and cloud. In this post, founder David Vellante provides a detailed analysis of how "the 'big four' megatrends of cloud, mobile, social and Big Data" are driving demand for IT performance - and how this demand is in turn driving opportunity for memory storage. Memory has always provided a performance advantage over spinning disks, but there have been barriers (notably cost) to deploying it on a large scale. In this post, though, Vellante presents two comparisons of hybrid flash-first vs. traditional disk arrays - from May 2013 and February 2014 - to illustrate how the economics of storage are changing. In May 2013, CAPEX for flash-first systems (combining flash memory and spinning disks, but writing to memory rather than disk) had a cost advantage over traditional arrays for workloads requiring more than 600 IOPS. In the February 2014 comparison, the gap has been eliminated almost completely, due primarily to decreasing flash costs. Vellante adds that the savings associated with flash-first storage "ripples through to total cost of ownership, as maintenance and OPEX will be reduced."

The storage technologies described in this post are primarily deployed in high-volume environments - but as cloud and Big Data, mobile and storage become more prevalent and more demanding of IT resources, more and more IT managers will find that they are responsible for increasing volumes of data. Vellante's advice is important to both current managers and to those dealing with ever-growing data volumes: while he notes that the twin trends towards lower flash prices and more need for capacity "doesn’t mean you should go rip and replace your existing array assets," IT managers are well-adviced to avoid simply buying upgrades to current storage arrays, but should instead "take a look around and see how the incumbent’s latest and greatest compares with memory storage."

The "big four" megatrends of cloud, mobile, social and Big Data are putting new pressures on IT departments. These high level forces are rippling through to create demands on infrastructure as follows:

Cloud — Amazon has turned the data center into an API. This trend is forcing CIOs, as best they can, to replicate the agility, cost structure and flexibility of external cloud service providers. Unlike outsourcing of the 1990’s, which had diseconomies of scale at volume, cloud services have marginal economics that track software (i.e. incremental costs go toward zero). This trend will put added pressure on IT to respond to the cloud.

Mobility — Most practitioners in the Wikibon community say they have a "love/hate" relationship with mobile. On the one hand, like many end user initiatives, accommodating mobile creates extra cycles for IT. However with mobile, the IT pros are all mobile users so they are part of the drive toward mobile.

Social — is not something that many IT pros traditionally may have time for during business hours but that is changing. Social is becoming an increasingly popular form of collaboration, information gathering and messaging. And social contributes to data creation.

Big Data — in a recent survey of 300 Wikibon practitioners, 95% said that they’d either already shifted resources away from traditional data warehouse infrastructure, toward Hadoop (65%) or they would by the end of 2014 (30%).  Big Data has turned data growth from a problem of management into an opportunity.

These four trends are stressing traditional storage system designs which are changing rapidly...

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