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Basic Considerations When Switching to an All-Flash Array

September 15, 2015

Although the exact definition of what constitutes an all-flash array (AFA) can be somewhat confusing, the basic idea of moving to flash-based storage—that is, storage without spinning disks (HDD storage)—comes with appeal to many companies. Flash storage can offer speed and flexibility that spinning disks cannot; therefore, it can present gains in efficiency that leave HDDs in the dust.

Note that this has not eliminated traditional spinning-disk storage completely. Like it says at a recent Market Watch post, “Updating Data Center Infrastructures With All-Flash Arrays -- Wisely,” the main factor that keeps HDD storage in play is its cost. It can be much cheaper for companies to continue to use their standard arrays, which are full of HDDs, instead of making a complete upgrade to AFA. It is that first hurdle that makes it hard to handle data in this current state of limbo. Until companies can make the switch to a completely-flash-based set of disks, they will have to deal with the complications of managing two types of drives.

The first major issue businesses can encounter when adding flash to their storage compliment is migration. Traditional migration tools may have a hard time remaining efficient when dealing with the ways in which flash disks and HDDs handle data. This makes it necessary for companies to find migration tools that are flash-aware—able to refrain from copying zero blocks—and can optimize data transfer without getting in the way of online activities, by using an isolated IP address.

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Companies will also need to look for synchronous and asynchronous replication of data and always-on clustering to make sure disaster recovery will work as expected. Because software typically handles AFA storage systems, it must be able to use those technologies to make the most of data while not separating certain data groups into silos that are, at best, inefficient and, at worst, incapable of proper system recovery. Software must be able to keep track of all disks, regardless of their type, while maintaining network connections and noticing when storage volumes change or fail.

The big benefit to using software to handle these arrays is that companies can often purchase the best hardware for their needs without having to worry about compatibility. It can be a challenge for newcomers to pick the correct management platform, but it will be worth the time investment for the exchange of universal access to any type and brand of storage that fits a company best. In any case, businesses will have much on their plates when considering a switch to flash storage—either in full or as part of a hybrid model. Following some basic guidelines, however, should make their lives much easier during a migration process and in the years following.

Edited by Dominick Sorrentino

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