Author Robert Heinlein famously proclaimed, “Specialization is for insects!” and in some ways that’s true for IT as well. Ant colonies work because every important job has a specialized ant that is specifically adapted to that job. If you staffed your colony with only one type of ant (assuming you could teach it a new job), the work would probably get done, but not as well, which could be catastrophic for the colony as a whole.
It turns out flash storage is more like ants than you might expect. According to IDC, flash storage can be grouped into three emerging specialized types: primary flash, big data flash and rack-scale flash.1
Primary flash storage is designed to be fast, with low latency. You might call it the soldier ant of the storage colony, handling input/output on the front line. Primary flash storage is well-suited to handling the data for time-sensitive enterprise apps and structured data. It’s great at taking in and sending back predictably sized chunks of data, and doing it quickly.
Big data flash storage is where the heavy lifting of data analytics happens. Big data flash needs the throughput and bandwidth that flash storage provides, but latency is not as much a concern. Typically, big data flash storage is used for analyses that run in batch mode, operating on very large datasets that can vary widely in size.
Rack-scale flash storage is probably the most specialized category of the three. This type is essentially a subset of big data flash, but its primary usage is for data analytics processing that happens in real time. To provide the quickest possible turnaround, rack-scale flash storage requires very low latency.
Like the proverbially productive ant colony, setting up your data center with the right mix of specialized flash storage types will give you a valuable production boost. Where the analogy fails for IT is the fact that, unlike an insect, technology can adapt. These flash storage categories are still more notional than operational, but with the right tools you can create the right mix of storage today with Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Insight.
The HPE 3PAR StoreServ flash-based storage, powered by Intel® Xeon® processors, are already solving this problem, using software-driven tuning and configuration to create the specialized behaviors your data center needs. These storage solutions include an array of adaptive storage management options built in, including Adaptive Sparing, Adaptive Flash Cache, Priority Optimization, and more. While any flash storage option will offer speed that is magnitudes faster than a hard-disk drive-based storage solution, properly tuned flash storage might be the difference between comfortable profits, and fiddling your competitive edge away.
1 IDC. (April 2016). Evolving Workloads Driving the Emergence of New Storage Platforms.