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Flash memory has been around for more than 25 years. But over the past few years, the technology has enjoyed explosive growth, arguably becoming more ubiquitous than the hard disk drive (HDD). In 2008, the flash memory market generated about $9 billion in revenue and by 2012, that figure had grown to nearly $27 billion.

While the merits of the technology were never in doubt, it’s never been as scalable as it is today. Indeed, it’s believed that flash memory is shrinking at a rate that exceeds Moore’s Law. With increased scalability, the applications for flash storage have likewise grown. One of the areas where flash is quickly becoming the standard is as a storage solution for high-performance workloads.

What makes flash effective?

The basic difference between a conventional hard drive and flash (also known as Solid State Storage or SSD) is that a flash drive has no moving parts. Previously, when a user needed to access a file on an HDD, a series of rapidly rotating disks would begin spinning and a magnetic head mounted to an actuator arm would scan for the relevant data—not unlike a record player. Any of these parts could break and your data would be lost forever. Remember “that clicking noise”?

With flash memory, data can be accessed simply and immediately. Latency is reduced by up to 90 percent because no parts need to move to access the data you’re requesting. The implications of this distinction for high-performance workloads are tremendous.

Flash memory is believed to be shrinking at a rate exceeding Moore’s Law

Flash: When most effective meets most cost-efficient

The cost of flash memory is dropping below $5/GB, but the cheap price of SSD is only one of several factors behind its compelling return on investment. Flash drives have an 84 percent smaller footprint compared to HDD, so they take up less physical space. There are no spinning disks or massive cooling systems, so energy costs are defrayed as well. Rapid access to data also boosts productivity and allows for operating costs and IT staff workloads to be downsized.

Finally, flash can be used to optimize your HDD resources. While flash offers faster speed than a spinning disk hard drive, HDD can still be leveraged for high-capacity storage. In a multi-tier flash solution, SSD memory is used as a secondary cache where data is “fired up” before being rapidly delivered to the endpoint.

Check out the ways flash can optimize your data storage and save money in this infographic:

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