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News Flash—Flash Storage Isn’t As Expensive As You Think

Increase Performance without Increasing Costs

Flash storage offers dramatically faster performance over traditional spinning magnetic disk storage technology, but many enterprises have postponed adoption of it because of cost concerns. But it’s not as expensive as you think.

“When the storage efficiency techniques and the ability to safely use lower-cost memory are combined, all-flash storage systems can typically match the price of high-performance, tier 1, HDD-based storage systems,” says Storage Switzerland Senior Analyst George Crump. “What’s more, they’re now working their way into the price-band of tier 2 storage systems.”

Flash StorageCrump believes that a multi-step approach to driving down flash costs will help the enterprise reduce its overall storage costs. He suggests techniques like thinly provisioning all volumes on the system to make sure that capacity is only used when it’s actually needed and minimizing the data being written through the always-on deduplication and compression capabilities of flash storage.

But the reality remains that while flash storage provides major performance advantages over spinning disks, it is still more expensive to buy. Flash drives also offer less capacity than spinning disk drives.

If all enterprise storage were the same cost per gigabyte, IT would very likely only purchase flash storage. Traditional storage drives cost about 7 or 8 cents per usable gigabyte, while flash storage drives cost about 40 cents per usable gigabyte. The price of solid-state drives (SSDs) is falling, but the price of flash storage is declining even faster.

This roughly 5X price differential becomes less significant when you factor in the primary advantage of flash storage: performance. For this reason, price per gigabyte per second provides a more relevant metric, because the sequential read speed provides IT with a fair comparison of cost and performance differences between SSDs and flash storage drives.

“There really is no longer much, if any, debate about the inherent value and desirability or even relative reliability and longevity of flash,” says Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) Senior Analyst Mark Peters. “The questions are now about the type, speed and extent of adoption. Simply put, it is not if flash will be adopted, but where and how soon.

IDC sees flash outpacing SSD growth, with enterprise SSD shipments expected to increase more than 75% annually. IDC attributes SSD growth rates to enterprise demands for faster storage performance with lower latency and lower costs. Meanwhile, flash storage pricing will continue to decline faster than HDD pricing as manufacturers increase capacity.

Lower prices, combined with performance advantages, will make flash storage an increasingly compelling option for enterprises.

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