All-Flash Arrays: The Top 8 Myths and Answers

Myths about all flash arrays vector illustration

1. “Flash wears out too fast.” Advances in wear leveling and garbage collection have made flash very reliable. The longest lived production SSDs have now been in data centers for 4-5 years, which is about the estimated life span of SSDs that came out in 2010 and 2011. They are still going strong. If you buy flash today, you can expect 7 years or more life span.

2. “I can’t afford an all-flash array.” Flash is dropping in price, and with its tremendous performance boost its ROI is much better than HDDs for active data processing. However, flash will probably always be more expensive than HDDs, because as flash lowers its prices so do the HDD makers. You will want to watch your costs. Purchase an AFA that will meet your needs for the next 3-5 years. Look for all-inclusive pricing including the cost of the system with storage services and required training. Treated separately, the cost of the add-ons can be more than the system’s purchase cost. Beware of low come-on prices that actually require lots of extra services and components.

3. “Flash is hard to manage.” Flash arrays are not any harder to manage than HDD arrays. The real complexity in any array lies in the storage services, and the array-maker should provide a simplified console for just this purpose. The simpler the management, the less time required from the team. Simplicity thanks to wizards and automated configuration greatly improves management functions.

4. “I can’t get enough capacity with flash.” The all-flash array data center is a pipe dream. No one is talking about using flash to handle general purpose processing or secondary storage. On the other hand, you do need sufficient capacity for your production files and big primary data. Look for dedupe and compression techniques optimized for flash and active production data.

5. “The maintenance costs will kill me.” You are right to be wary of high ongoing maintenance costs, just like you would be with any other storage vendor. You might get a great deal the first year then get slammed the second year with support, licensing and maintenance costs. Look for reasonable support rates across the entire lifecycle. Offerings to look for include expert service and support, simplified installation and ongoing management and investment protection for your AFA in the form of non-disruptive upgrade and expansion paths. Also SSDs take less power and cooling than HDDs, so you will save money on the energy cost side of the ledger.

6. “I don’t want to work with the big storage vendors, they ignore small companies.” Companies like IBM make good product but you don’t have to buy from them. Feel free to look to smaller vendors that cut their eyeteeth on flash storage development. Test any AFA by a rigorous set of questions including high IOPs/low latency, high availability, dedupe and compression, scalability, simplicity, the ability to handle mixed workloads, reliability, native data protection and encryption, and a high degree of automation. Also look for an AFA that scales economically and non-disruptively. Non-disruptive features should include capacity expansion, controller upgrades, and software updates to maintain data without performance loss.

7. “All technical support departments are the same – pretty bad.” Forward-thinking vendors have made customer support a competitive distinction with proactive, expert support. Proactive support includes remote monitoring and remediation, and expert support engineers who are available 24×7 and don’t need to stick to a script.

8. “Disk works fine for us; all-flash is too alternative.” HDDs are superior to flash for storing long-term data. But flash arrays are all about optimizing production data performance, an issue that data center admins face every day. As for being alternative, the same qualities as you will find in HDDs you will find in all-flash arrays: qualities like density, performance, storage capacity and reliability/high availability all push AFAs deeper into the storage infrastructure mainstream. It’s increasingly rare to see a data center without flash, and is becoming more common see all-flash arrays for Tier 1 applications.