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Are Large Storage Arrays Dead at the Hands of SSD?

An industry trends and perspective

Are large storage arrays dead at the hands of SSD? Short answer NO not yet.

There is still a place for traditional storage arrays or appliances particular those with extensive features, functionality and reliability availability serviceability (RAS). In other words, there is still a place for large (and small) storage arrays or appliances including those with SSDs.

Storage I/O Industry Trends and Perspectives

Is there a place for newer flash SSD storage systems, appliances and architectures? Yes

Similar to how there is a place for traditional midrange storage arrays or appliances have found their roles vs. traditional higher end so-called enterprise arrays. Think as an example EMC CLARiiON/VNX or HP EVA/P6000 or HDS AMS/HUS or NetApp FAS or IBM DS5000 or IBM V7000 among others vs. EMC Symmetric/DMX/VMAX or HP P10000/3Par or HDS VSP/USP or IBM DS8000. In addition to traditional enterprise or high-end storage systems and midrange also known as modular, there are also specialized appliances or targets such as for backup/restore and archiving. Also do not forget the IO performance SSD appliances like those from TMS among others that have been around for a while.

Is the role of large storage systems changing or evolving? Yes

Given their scale and ability to do large amounts of work in a dense footprint, for some the role of these systems is still mission critical tier 1 application and data support. For other environments, their role continues to evolve being used for high-density tier 2 bulk or even near-line storage for on-line access at scale.

Storage I/O Industry Trends and Perspectives

Does this mean there is completion between the old and new systems? Yes

In some circumstances as we have seen already with SSD solutions. Some will place as competing or replacements while others as complementing. For example in the PCIe flash SSD card segment EMC VFCache is positioned is complementing Dell, EMC, HDS, HP, IBM, NetApp, Oracle or others storage vs. FusionIO who positions as a replacement for the above and others. Another scenario is how some SSD vendors have and continue to position their all-flash SSD arrays using either drives or PCIe cards to complement and coexist with other storage systems in an environment (e.g., data center level tiering) vs. as a replacement. Also keep in mind SSD solutions that also support a mix of flash devices and traditional HDDs for capacity and cost savings or cloud access in the same solution.

Does this mean that the industry has adopted all SSD appliances as the state of art?

Avoid confusing industry adoption or talk with industry and customer deployment. They are similar, however one is focused on what the industry talks about or discusses as state of art or the future while the other is what customers are doing. Certainly some of the new flash SSD appliance and storage startups such as Solidfire, Nexgen, Violin, Whiptail or veteran TMS among others have promising futures, some of which may actually be in play with the current SSD market shakeout and consolidation.

Does that mean everybody is going SSD?

SSD customer adoption and deployment continues to grow, however so too does the deployment of high-capacity HDDs.

Storage I/O Industry Trends and Perspectives

Do SSDs need HDDs, do HDDs need SSDs? Yes

Granted there are environments where needs can be addressed by all of one or the other. However at least near term, there is a very strong market for tiering and mix of SSD, some fast HDDs and lots of high-capacity HDDs to meet various needs including performance, availability, capacity, energy and economics. After all, there is no such thing, as a data or information recession yet budgets are tight or being reduced. Likewise, people and data are living longer.

What does this mean?
If there, were no such thing as a data recession and budgets a non-issue, perhaps everything could move to all flash SSD storage systems. However, we also know that people and data are living longer along with changing data life-cycle patterns. There is also the need for performance to close the traditional data center IO performance to space capacity gap and bottlenecks as well as store and keep data longer.

There will continue to be a need for a mix of high-capacity and high performance. More IO will continue to gravitate towards the IO appliances, however more data will settle in for longer-term retention and continued access as data life-cycle continue to evolve. Watch for more SSD and cache in the large systems, along with higher density SAS-NL (SAS Near Line e.g. high capacity) type drives appearing in those systems.

If you like new shiny new toys or technology (SNTs) to buy, sell or talk about, there will be plenty of those to continue industry adoption while for those who are focused on industry deployment, there will be a mix of new, and continued evolution for implementation.

Related links
Industry adoption vs. industry deployment, is there a difference?
Industry trend: People plus data are aging and living longer
No Such Thing as an Information Recession
Changing Lifecycles Data Footprint Reduction
What is the best kind of IO? The one you do not have to do
Is SSD dead? No, however some vendors might be
Speaking of speeding up business with SSD storage
Are Hard Disk Drives (HDD's) getting too big?
IT and storage economics 101, supply and demand
Has SSD put Hard Disk Drives (HDD's) On Endangered Species List?
Why SSD based arrays and storage appliances can be a good idea (Part I)
Researchers and marketers don't agree on future of nand flash SSD
EMC VFCache respinning SSD and intelligent caching (Part I)
SSD options for Virtual (and Physical) Environments Part I: Spinning up to speed on SSD

Ok, nuff said for now.

Cheers Gs

Greg Schulz - Author Cloud and Virtual Data Storage Networking (CRC Press, 2011), The Green and Virtual Data Center (CRC Press, 2009), and Resilient Storage Networks (Elsevier, 2004)

twitter @storageio

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More Stories By Greg Schulz

Greg Schulz is founder of the Server and StorageIO (StorageIO) Group, an IT industry analyst and consultancy firm. Greg has worked with various server operating systems along with storage and networking software tools, hardware and services. Greg has worked as a programmer, systems administrator, disaster recovery consultant, and storage and capacity planner for various IT organizations. He has worked for various vendors before joining an industry analyst firm and later forming StorageIO.

In addition to his analyst and consulting research duties, Schulz has published over a thousand articles, tips, reports and white papers and is a sought after popular speaker at events around the world. Greg is also author of the books Resilient Storage Network (Elsevier) and The Green and Virtual Data Center (CRC). His blog is at www.storageioblog.com and he can also be found on twitter @storageio.

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