The False Promise of a "Cheap Flash" Future

By Jacob Cherian for Beyond The Blocks - Tuesday, December 08, 2015

False promise of cheap flash
The time of "cheap flash" hasn't come yet

If you listen to some storage vendors, they would leave you with the impression that in the future storage systems will use just one type of storage media – namely “cheap flash”.

  • In this alternate universe, all enterprise storage systems will support a single homogeneous type of media, and these systems will somehow be able provide the same entry price, cost/GB, performance, and endurance as systems that use multiple types of media.
  • In this world, there is no more innovation in storage media – “cheap flash” just keeps getting cheaper.

The real world is different.

There will always be industry giants like Intel, Western Digital, SanDisk, Micron, and Samsung who will continue to develop innovative new media types with improved performance characteristics, endurance, and cost points.

Even if a data storage world dominated by just flash media emerges, there will be multiple types to choose from –  there already are multiple types of flash storage to choose from. As Drew Robb of Enterprise Storage Forum points out, today there are multiple types of flash with different price points and properties, as well as completely new types of solid state media – such as 3D-XPoint from Intel and Micron – on the way. Moreover, the industry is developing new storage technologies such as PCM and MRAM -- technologies that could eventually replace flash and serve as the primary tier of storage in the future.

So there will always be different types of media.

In addition, depending on a workload’s priority, performance, and capacity requirements, customers will always want to use various types of media to optimize the cost/performance equation. Given this, the most cost-effective data storage solutions will continue to be those based on architectures (yes, these are hybrids) that can combine multiple media types – some with higher cost and higher performance characteristics and some with lower cost and lower performance characteristics, even if these are all different types of flash. It is these types of architectures that will be able to deliver solutions that are cost effective and at the same time able to meet customers’ diverse storage needs.

The only reason hybrid architectures have been mistakenly characterized as a transition technology is due to the limitations of the hybrid architectures that are common in the industry today.

For example, when the biggest names in the storage industry added flash to their disk-based architectures they used post-process tiering – because these systems were never designed to work with flash. While this architecture delivers low cost, it does not deliver on performance. Tiering done on a schedule is not reactive to workloads and hence inefficiently utilizes the primary tier for the most important data (the working set). The result is only marginal performance improvements over disk-based systems.

On another side, the caching architectures of many newer hybrid systems deliver better performance compared to the post-process tiering solutions – but they are still point solutions that only make sense with disk and flash. In addition, in many of these systems flash SSDs serve as only the read cache while writes are made directly to spinning disks, which increases latency.

Finally, none of these systems can perform global real-time dedupe and compression across all media types, which results in inefficient utilization of the media in the storage system.

That's where Reduxio comes in.

Reduxio’s Tier-X™ architecture offers a glimpse into the future of storage systems – systems that can combine multiple media types to deliver industry leading performance at a fraction of the cost of systems that use a single type of media:

  • The Tier-X engine is a multi-level media-aware fine-grained tiering engine that continuously and independently moves data between tiers to ensure that data is always matched to the proper underlying media, given the customer’s performance and cost expectations.
  • The Reduxio HX550 flash storage array with Tier-X delivers flash performance as all read and write operations are done from flash SSDs. As data becomes cold Tier-X quickly moves this data to spinning disks, ensuring that the customer’s working set continues to be served from flash.
  • Tier-X was architected to ensure that improvements in existing types of media as well as new media types can be supported, future proofing solutions.

In addition, Reduxio’s Tier-X™ based systems implement NoDup™ in-line real-time global dedupe and compression.

  • With NoDup™ dedupe and compression is applied the instant data lands on the storage system – data is deduped and compressed before it is placed in the memory (DRAM) cache and only optimized data is moved between tiers.
  • By maximizing the effective amount of (DRAM) cache and flash SSD capacity and minimizing the amount of data moved in tiering operations, NoDup™ significantly enhances performance.

Storage that combines multiple types of media is not a transitory gateway to a “homogenous cheap flash” future – it is the future.

By allowing for the use of different media types, “hybrid” systems will be at the forefront of a new class of storage systems that can take advantage of the latest innovations in media technology. By overcoming the limitations of current hybrid architectures, Reduxio’s Tier-X™ and NoDup™ demonstrate that storage architectures that use multiple media types can deliver enterprises the cost-effective high performance storage they need – both now, and in the future.


Jacob Cherian

Written by Jacob Cherian

Jacob has a solid track record of product and technology innovation, and defining technology and product strategy across multiple products. Extensive experience with translating technology to products, and defining and building new products.

Want to comment on this blog post?