How to beat the Flash Iron Triangle

How to beat the Flash Iron Triangle
By John Martin, Director of Strategy & Technology, Office of the CTO – NetApp APAC

Are All Flash Arrays really ready be the backbone for the majority of your datacenter storage?

If you listen to the All Flash Array startups the answer is a resounding yes, but a lot of the customers I talk to still have their reservations. It isn’t uncommon to hear “We just don’t have a business justification for All Flash”. The reasons for this comes back to the old iron triangle, Fast, cheap, good … pick any two. There isn’t much doubt that All Flash Arrays are both fast, and good, but without a solid tie-in to driving top line business growth, IT has to choose “cheap and fast”, or alternatively “cheap and good”, “fast and good” simply isn’t possible.

On the other hand, All Flash Arrays are often chosen when you can turn performance into a solid business benefit. Even excluding rock star examples like High Frequency Trading or Real Time Fraud Prevention, sometimes simply being able to generate reports four or five times faster, or making a poorly written database application work faster, makes an All Flash Array an obvious fit. In a lot of cases, it’s faster, easier and more reliable to throw some high performance hardware at a problem than try to re-write an application or database layout to achieve the desired business objectives.

We also see All Flash in high profile business initiatives like enterprise mobility using virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). Many early VDI deployments used traditional disk arrays with a modicum of flash to cater for the notoriously bursty workloads. Recently though, end user satisfaction with many of those deployments have taken a sharp downturn. The reason for this is that early VDI deployments were often as fast as the old hard disk based laptops people were carrying around. But when those laptops were replaced with new ones with SSD drives, the difference between their laptops and corporate VDI became very noticeable. It might be hard to justify moving VDI to all flash just to save someone thirty seconds at bootup, or a few extra seconds of application load time. Having said that, I know whenever I have to troubleshoot my kids’ old, disk based laptop because Minecraft isn’t working, my frustration with the sluggishness often leaves me wanting to throw it through the nearest window while inadvertently teaching them some words I’d prefer they didn’t repeat in public.

I think IT often fails to appreciate the emotional impact that “Cheap + Good” decision making has on the business, and why so many business value oriented IT initiatives like VDI, or Enterprise Business Intelligence (EBI) are met with slow adoption. In many cases, implementing All Flash Array would go a long way to making the end users of these solutions much much happier. Having said that, providing every employee with a sports car might also make them a lot happier, but despite numerous studies showing that happier employees are more productive employees, I don’t see the all sports car car-fleet happening any time soon.

But, imagine if you went to the car yard to buy a seven seater people-mover because your kids and their friends are getting bigger, more numerous, and involved with an ever increasing number of weekend sporting and social activities.

On the way through to the back of the car lot where they keep the mini-vans, you pass by the beautifully crafted performance cars with a wistful look in your eye.

The car-salesman walks up to you and says “I noticed you’re looking at the SuperSport; beautiful car, I’d like one myself.”

At this point you explain, “Sorry, as beautiful as it is, I really need a seven seater for my growing family,” and keep walking towards the back of the lot.

Then the salesman says, “But wait, this is a magical SuperSport!”

“Really?” you ask, “in what way is it ‘magical’?”

“Well,” the salesman continues, “this one will shrink your children as you put them into the back seat, so while it looks like it can only fit two people, it’s really a seven seater, and it’s around the same price as the people mover but much smaller and faster.”

At this point despite some healthy skepticism, most people would strongly consider booking a test drive. All Flash Arrays are a lot like that, except that they compress precious data rather than precious children.

On a more serious note however, the price difference between flash and performance disk drives used to be over 10:1. Today, that number is closer to 4:1 and is expected to shrink to 2:1 or even 1:1 over the next few years. When you combine that with the modern duplication and compression technology available in All Flash FAS, it becomes clear that you now have the opportunity to invest in All Flash technology without worrying about how to justify the extra costs, because it will actually be cheaper. Maybe it won’t be for the whole datacenter today, but with Clustered Data ONTAP’s ability to non-disruptively migrate data to new technologies over time, you can begin your All flash journey with the most compressible data today, and move the rest of your workloads to flash as the price points improve.

All Flash FAS does all this because it’s built with Data ONTAP. It is more than just a fast deduplicating storage array. It is an extremely fast and complete data management platform. It is this that allows you to beat the iron triangle; you can pick good, fast and cheap all at the same time, without compromise; and you can start today, knowing that NetApp stands behind it and your success, because we believe there is always a better way for you to access and realize the value of your data.

If you want to know more about NetApp’s All Flash FAS, get in contact with your local rep or fill out a Sales Inquiry form today.