Friday, November 1, 2013

EMC flexes SSD muscles with new VNX2, and ...

Yesterday's EMC Industry Analyst Summit (10/31/2013) saw lots of discussion during the Unified Storage Division's presentation about the use of SSD's in the new VNX2 systems – 70% of the new systems ship with some mix of HDD/SSD in them. This certainly makes a lot of sense given the faster throughput, increased reliability, and lower power consumption that flash storage brings to the table. But it also begs the question, why aren't 100% of the shipments going out the door with solid-state storage?

A bit of thought and a bit of research (well, maybe a whole byte's worth of thought) makes it pretty clear that -- for the time being at least --SSD's are not going to be big sellers in three categories of the marketplace. These are:

  • Those workloads that will get no appreciable performance benefit from solid-state, and for which lower power use - a continuing operational benefit to be sure - can't cost justify the added Capex penalty that still accompanies any SSD buy.  Examples include traditional analytical operations where bandwidth rules the day (e.g., data warehousing), but do not include more modern in-memory applications that need higher I/O to accommodate real-time analysis of streaming data. Old-time data warehouses are not going away, but it's safe to assume that as increasing numbers of in-memory analysis tools enter the market, the mix of storage platforms shipping with SSD's will increase. 
  •  Applications seeing increased I/O performance from solid-state, but which get little useful benefit from faster I/O won't be low-hanging fruit for flash storage either. In most cases these are not front-line applications, but rather are such things as bulk storage, D2D backup and secondary DR locations or other "dark sites". Keep in mind however that the improved reliability of solid-state would still be of great value in all such cases, and that as the price delta between solid-state and spinning disk narrows, solid-state purchases will become viable for them as well.

  • A third category of non-flash buyers is likely to be those areas euphemistically referred to as "growth markets". Ignoring the fact that individual companies within these markets are often technology leaders on the world stage, it's frequently the case that data centers in such areas are not early movers when it comes to implementing new forms of IT infrastructure. For many players in those markets, tried-and-true and lower Capex understandably rule the day.

The above notwithstanding, solid-state storage, already a part of the mix for the majority of units shipping from many vendors, continues to grow in market share. For the short term, companies are opting for SSD's because of performance requirements, but in the long run, decreased power consumption and increased reliability will become key drivers for SSD purchasing across the board. Thus, once the price of SSD's is low enough, begin kissing your spinning discs goodbye when it comes to any customer facing application.

Thanks to friend Howard for starting me thinking about this, and particular thanks to Tod at EMC for his help in ferreting out a few answers.