Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Future of Storage Is Speed

Storage has finally reached an inflection point over the past year where the speed of the average storage device is beginning to go up dramatically.  For many moons we saw the capacity and associated cost per GB improved dramatically every year, but the actual raw performance only improved incrementally.

Speed is the future.

You can see this in both the consumer and enterprise spheres.

Many laptops and tablets now ship with only SSD as an option.  It is only in the lower end of the market where you still spinning disks as an option.  The performance improvement of your new notebook over the old one is mostly due to the 5400 rpm spinning disk being replaced by an SSD.  Sure that nice new Intel i Series processor helps - but it's not the key to great performance for your shiny new laptop.

Enterprise class storage on servers and in storage arrays are making use of SSDs extensively.  They are used for huge caches, high performance data partitions, and specialized high speed storage companies and arrays use avoid spinning disks entirely.  The increased performance of SSDs at the reasonable prices of today make them very compelling.  Many storage arrays are constrained in terms of IOPS performance before capacity becomes an issue.  This means that adding some SSDs of lower capacity but much higher performance can re-balance the equation.  The larger capacity can be put to use with good performance.

In addition to SSD we also have the PCI flash based storage that is even faster.

These trends show clearly that spinning disks are going to be like tape drives soon.  They will still be around, but mostly as a large capacity, slow storage option.

What we see today with the high water benchmarks of 1 million IOPS on high end storage arrays will be common performance in all data centers.  The hundreds of thousands of IOPS possible on workstation class flash storage today will be routine on laptops, desktops, and tablets.  It will happen faster than we expect.

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