Dealing With Criticalities of Data Storage & Access with Flash

Date:   Sunday , May 04, 2014

NetApp India Marketing & Services is a division of NetApp, Inc. (NASDAQ: NTAP). It is a provider of storage and data management solutions that deliver outstanding cost efficiency and accelerate business breakthroughs. The company currently has a market cap of Rs. 70,820.09 crore.

With better communication technologies and global outreach, businesses around the world are scaling up very fast. Particularly in India and China, enterprises have huge customer base compared to other nations. With hundreds of millions of customers interacting with the enterprises today, there is a constant amount of data that has been created and consumed on the enterprise IT environment. Interactions between the enterprise and its ecosystem, be it customers, employees or other stakeholders, are compelling organizations to be highly responsive to their ecosystems. There is a need to evaluate a different physical medium that has significantly better latency and responsiveness characteristics on which the data can be stored and provided. This is where \'Flash\' can make a significant contribution.

Increased generation and consumption of data presents a challenge and an opportunity for almost every sector of the economy and society. NetApp has observed a 300 percent increase in cluster data adoption which is an exciting time globally as well as for India. Enterprises are gearing up with the latest of technology iterations in providing a platform to combat data insufficiencies for mission critical environments. These platforms are sophisticated enough to provide not only unification of data but capabilities to support SAN and NAS protocols. Data is not anymore in the small leagues of Gigabytes but has scaled up to manage not only capacity but performance through a modular approach in terms of Peta bytes.

Achieving High Reliability with Flash
We have seen an increase in the adoption of flash at appropriate places in the data path for very compelling reasons. The technical difference prompting interest in flash is obviously the latency characteristics. Data stored in the flash medium can be accessed in terms of in time that is measured in terms of microseconds. Whereas the traditional hard disk drives medium, have latency characteristics more on the milli-seconds timeframe. Flash delivers a significant improvement in latency. This means that a variety of applications where latency and responsiveness are the critical factors in ensuring enterprise and business success can adopt flash. The nuances are that flash can be inserted at various points in a data path. For instance, if a single application or a single server needs to be provided fast data access, we can insert flash on the data server side itself.

NetApp has a comprehensive flash portfolio across all cores of these used cases. In the FAS8000 series that we have introduced recently, there are extraordinary flash cache capabilities that go up to around 260 odd terabytes of flash capacity on the largest model. In enterprises, particularly in the banking and financial services and telecom sector, flash can make a huge difference to the mission critical application environments where the application is constantly interacting with users. Response times are very critical in ensuring that the data reaches end devices as fast as possible and flash can be a game changer here. There are specific application areas and specific verticals that can benefit from adopting flash at appropriate place in the data path.

The quality brought forth by flash, however, is challenged by the cost margin; preventing its wider adoption.

The cost per GB or the cost per terabyte of flash has been mitigated by the flash vendors as the flash technology has been increasingly adopted in large volumes. This is not only in data centers and, storage platforms but also in the wide variety of end user devices like mobile phones and tablets including desktops and laptops where flash is being used as a medium of storage. The volumes in which flash is being shipped are increasing exponentially and that allows the cost to come down. The potential facilitator of flash is in the sector of virtualization; other than that, there is no major change in the use of flash except that it will be adopted more and more widely as the cost comes down and durability goes up.

Looking Ahead of the Curve
The new NetApp FAS8000 series is the first enterprise storage system to unify SAN, NAS and storage virtualization into a single hybrid array. It is NetApp\'s first FAS platform designed specifically for scale-out storage environments built on clustered Data ONTAP.
These kind of new technologies are to enable scale-out enterprise storage systems and are helping the industry achieve powerful and feature rich storage systems with superior I/O flexibility to simplify and eliminate complex upgrades as IT evolves. Flash is already making headway in not only PCs but in BYOD devices as well. It is only a part of a continuum where newer technologies are being evaluated to act as storage media in the enterprise space as well as in the consumer space. (As told Pankaj Kundwani)