How Flash Changes the Economics of Enterprise Storage

Apr 5, 2016

The cost of flash drives has come down quite a bit over recent years. A major driving factor is the widespread use of flash technology in consumer items. It is in your iPhone (or Android), your tablet, your new laptop, and even your smart TV. It seems that everything is running on flash technology.

The result of this expanded use has driven down the cost enterprise flash systems as well. The cost of enterprise flash is currently around $4 to $5 per gig. While that price is less than half of what it was 5 years ago, it still has a ways to go to match 15k RPM enterprise hard disk drives (HDD) at $0.80 to $1 per gig. Because of the price disparity, many technology purchasers still see flash as too expensive.

New applications require new technology

Comparing the cost per gig is an outdated way to look at the cost of storage. You have to take into account the impressive performance improvements that you gain through the use of flash. If you have switched to a flash drive in your PC, you know how fast your system boots and the system’s immediate response. Today’s newer applications in mobile, big data, analytics, social, and cloud demand that increase in performance.

The benefits that flash brings to your data center go well beyond improving the performance of your applications. Flash provides you the ability to do more with those applications. For example, you could add real-time data analytics to your applications, which was simply impossible in an all-HDD storage system.

New way to think about the cost of storage

Flash storage can allow you to reduce the total amount of enterprise storage that you need to purchase and manage. Flash processes data so efficiently that it enables storage-saving features such as real-time data compression and inline deduplication. This can give you the ability to store 5x the amount of data in the same space. This alone can balance out the cost per gig comparison.

Equal amount of data at 5x compression:

500 terabytes of 15k RPM HDDs at $0.80/gig = $400,000

100 terabytes of flash storage at $4/gig = $400,000

Even if you only achieve 4x compression, the additional performance benefits can easily justify the minor cost increases. The business benefits of analytics and the agility to implement new applications add additional value. How much value you receive is unique to your organization.

Other areas that flash can help reduce costs

If you can reduce your storage footprint, you can save on data center real estate and associated costs. You are running less hardware, which automatically lowers your energy costs. That is lowered even further when you consider that powering your spinning disks cost more to operate. Those disks are also generating more heat, raising your cooling costs.

The speed gained by flash can also reduce the number of servers needed to meet your particular application performance requirements. This number is a slightly more difficult to quantify, as the numbers will vary widely between different organizations. However, with software licensing costs generally tied to the number of processors or cores that the software runs on, any reduction in servers will help put more money back into your company’s pockets. And that number can add up quickly with enterprise applications such as Oracle or SAP with their licensing models.

There is another soft cost that can be reduced when you move to a modern flash storage system: Your management time and effort is dramatically reduced. More of the manual, day-to-day tasks can be automated, which allows you to focus on more strategic technology initiatives.

The benefits of flash storage are real. We are working with organization after organization to evaluate their particular storage requirements and build the business cases for a flash storage implementation.