Page 7 of 8
Flash memory-based technology promises to speed up the performance of storage, either locally or on the cloud, but it is no panacea for managing the coming data deluge.
Flash storage is currently undergoing a rapid revolution in development, with the technology being applied in a number of ways to tackle the problem of increasing storage performance from multiple angles.
For instance, vendors are adding SSDs to portable PCs to serve as a boot drive or even as primary storage, to storage arrays to serve as either cache or as a spinning drive replacement for higher-performance data, or to servers to act as boot drives or as a spinning drive replacement.
Flash storage is also available on a PCIe card for servers to speed up the performance of a specific application, and in appliances that allow multiple servers to access the high-performance servers. New technologies released this year allow flash memory in servers to be pooled between multiple servers.
Yet while flash storage is being substituted directly for disk storage in consumer devices like tablet PCs and thin form factor mobile PCs, that is not how they will be used in the data center, said Claus Mikkelsen, chief scientist at HDS.
Mikkelsen said that only 5 percent of data can actually benefit from dynamic tiering, which automatically moves data between different types of storage media depending on how quickly it will be accessed.
"That limits the overall impact to dynamic tiering," he said. "So that will limit the volume of SSD production."
Also, despite all the advances, flash memory is still several times more expensive on a per-Gbyte basis than spinning disk. Gelsinger said that flash memory costs 30 to 100 times more on a per-Gbyte basis than hard drives, making flash a small part of the storage mix for years to come.
"If I come to you as a great customer of EMC tomorrow and say, 'You should move to all-flash, it's just going to increase your storage costs by, let's say, maybe 50-X,' how do you think the conversation is going to go?" Gelsinger asked.
Looking over the next 10 years, Gelsinger said he does not see the 30-times to 100-times per-Gbyte cost differential between flash memory and hard disk storage changing substantially.
"To change this equation, it would have to change dramatically," he said. "If I'm off by a factor of two, then it might be 15 to 50 times more expensive. ... We feel very confident in saying that we continue in this hybrid world where you need both Flash and hard disk drives for as far as we can see into the future."
Falling prices and rising volumes for flash storage will change the score with hard drives, but not for the foreseeable future, said Steve Sicola, CTO of storage company X-IO.
"You couldn't satisfy the world's needs with the entire amount of flash available today if price was no issue," Sicola said. "But over the next 10 years, I see the percentage of flash used in storage systems that also have hard drives going up as the price difference slowly erodes."