TORONTO — The early days of flash in storage arrays were defined by its selective use for handling high-priority data, in large part due to its higher cost per gig than spinning disks. But as flash gets cheaper, and traditional HDDs start to show their limitations for some applications, flash adoption is getting more widespread.
The proliferation of flash in data centers can be seen with the growth and evolution of all-flash arrays. Skyera recently introduced the second generation of its all-flash array, skyHawk FS, which CEO Frankie Roohparvar said makes it easy for enterprises to upgrade their storage infrastructures to flash for the same price of spinning disk.
But price is not the only factor that might prompt the adoption of more flash in the data center or even an all-flash array. Application workloads and density are part of the equation. For example, skyHawk FS offers the industry's smallest footprint, Roohparvar said, cramming 136 TB of raw flash in a 1U chassis, as well as significantly lower power consumption.
Though skyHawk FS is designed with high performance and low latency in mind -- it supports bandwidth speeds of up to 2.4GB/s and up to 400,000 IOPS -- its small size and lightweight design presents the opportunity for new use cases outside the traditional data center.
"Cramming the most storage in a box is where Skyera really shines," said Jim Handy, principal analyst with Objective Analysis. All-flash arrays are gaining popularity, he said, but there's still trepidation about deploying a relatively very new technology.
However, Handy said, the lower cost of flash is no longer the only consideration fuelling adoption. Organizations are starting to see beyond price and consider the advantages of flash when performance trumps price, such as high-frequency trading applications in the financial sector or where extreme amounts of storage are required in a confined space such as military applications, an area where Skyera is seeing opportunities.
Scott Sinclair, an analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group, said the power consumption and cooling features of skyHawk FS, combined with its density, opens the door for it go into more places where footprint and power matter, such as airplanes and trucks. One particularly appealing sector is the military, where it can support high-power computing in the field.
Skyera is not particularly unique in its use of flash, he said, but it has a unique path to go after certain markets. And like other flash storage players such as Violin and Pure Storage, it has the advantage of having designed a storage array from the ground up with flash in mind. Traditional storage players that are integrating flash into their products, in part due to acquisitions, are often tied to their legacy platforms, including software that was designed to manage spinning disks.
More broadly, Sinclair said, it's important to remember that flash is a technology, not a product, so what matters is how it's being deployed. It is permeating the storage market, but that doesn't mean all-flash arrays are destined to take over; there's still a market for hybrid approaches.
Flash initially found a home in the data center for specific pain points, and now it's being considered for how it might help the overall bottom line of the business, such as supporting more transactions, which translates into higher revenue, Sinclair said. Choosing flash is no longer just a dollar-per-gig conversation. "The rational way is to look at the entire IT ecosystem."