As CPU power continues to grow according to Moore’s Law and increasing numbers of customers see the advantages of near real-time data access, big data ingestion and predictive analysis and similar advanced computing strategies, data read/write speeds have become a major barrier to achieving high performance. The basic problem is that disk spins at the same speed that it did 30 years ago, which means disk reads and writes, particularly random accesses, can only happen so fast. And the steady increase in disk capacity has, if anything exacerbated rather than ameliorated this problem.
In the last two years, however, a new technological answer has entered the market – NAND flash storage providing a 20X to 40X performance improvement on PCIe cards plugged directly into the server. While initial NAND flash implementations were very expensive and exotic, their price has been falling steadily due mainly to the heavy demand from the consumer marketplace. Flash SSDs are highly reliable and have much lower power consumption and therefore cooling costs than disk storage, in part because they only need power when they are actually in use. For these reasons, NAND Flash technology is becoming a disruptive force in the storage hardware industry. Several vendors are offering flash in different configurations at different price points, and flash storage has become a practical and much higher performance, alternative to high-speed disk for data-intensive, business-critical applications such as ERP and CRM systems even for SMBs.
NAND flash, however, is significantly more expensive than SATA disks on a per Gbyte basis. Hence, the optimal way of using flash is to replace high-speed disk entirely for the most frequently accessed Tier 0 and Tier 1 data in business-critical systems, where the important cost measure is cost per access, while historical data that is not often used should be migrated to high-density SATA disk systems. The concept of flash architectures is that flash will only be a small fraction of the total storage on the system and that it will hold only the fraction of data that is used intensively – for instance active purchase orders data from ERP systems.
This creates a challenge for many businesses, including both large enterprises and SMBs that have never established an effective data tiering system. The ERP databases of many companies contain years of historical data, much of it seldom used but retained for tax, compliance, and decision-support uses. This data slows operations at every turn, creates problems running backups and restores, and takes up space on expensive storage systems. Therefore, before companies can move to flash storage, they need to build efficient tiered data storage architecture first. This means that they need an information lifetime management (ILM) system that can automatically tier data according to the level of demand and/or business rules and archive the older historical data in a way that minimizes space while making it available when needed.
You need a vendor like Solix with the vision to understand the disruptive forces now just starting to impact data storage, including flash, and that is developing new versions of their product sets that will work with the new IT architectures that are evolving today. These are exciting times for data technology. After a decade of essentially quiet slow development, it is being rocked by new physical technologies as well as whole new kinds of database technology such as Hadooop and a tremendous influx of data. Today these sound like exotic technologies, but soon your business’s very survival in a highly competitive marketplace may depend on their successful adoption. It is not too soon to be thinking about them and preparing, and ILM technology will play a vital role. You will reap benefits from increased efficiency, higher service levels, and shorter backup and restore times, immediately.
We had a good year in 2011. We won some significant new customers, signed up new resellers worldwide, made great strides in improving and adding to our product set, and our win-rate continued to increase. We are looking forward to an even better 2012, with upcoming new product announcements and new partnerships. We are excited about the future and wish all our customers and partners a great year ahead.