The New Standard of Data Center Storage
A revolution is upon us. For the first time in the history of computers, the speed of storage has caught up with the rate of the computing resources that use that storage.
Up until this moment, storage has always been the bottleneck. Although your computer can store some information in its primary memory, known as RAM, this storage has a physical limit. Past that limit, you'll need to read data from a secondary storage device such as a hard disk, which is a much slower process. If you've ever tried to copy a file from an external device onto your computer, for example, you'll notice that it takes much more time than opening a file that's already stored in your computer's memory.
Of course, if the difference between RAM and external storage is noticeable on your personal computer, imagine the impact it has when those operations are repeated thousands and millions of times in an enterprise data center. To maximize your company's productivity and offer the best experience to your customers, you need to ensure you spend your money wisely on data center equipment.
Your choice of technology for your data center represents the confluence of many competing factors within your organization. Your IT team wants to get the most bang for its buck, while application owners are generally concerned with speeding up the software and improving performance. Managers and executives, meanwhile, would like to squeeze the most workload out of the physical floor tile within the data center, maximizing their consolidation ratios.
Running traditional "spinning disk" hard drives at scale within a data center can be an expensive proposition. Not only do you spend a lot on power and cooling, but you also need to buy a lot of drives to keep up with the processor and RAM located within the servers themselves. The good news is that recent developments in storage have made this a very different world than even five years ago.
When you're in the market for a new car after several years of owning one, the first thing you do is research what's new in the industry: new makes and models, new features, new safety standards and so on. In the same way, you need to do your research about the new data center storage devices and technologies available to you. Performing this due diligence allows you to make the purchase that's most sensible for your organization.
This article will give you an overview of the modern storage solutions that you now have at your fingertips. Whether you're looking to buy new tech or extend the life of your existing equipment, new data center storage technologies such as solid-state drives can transform the face of your business.
The History of Storage Technology
Ever since the history of computing began, computers have included two essential components: a central processing unit (CPU), which controls the execution of programs and instructions, and the memory in which the instructions and data reside.
There are two main types of memory: primary and secondary. The CPU can randomly access primary memory at any point — hence the term "random access memory (RAM)." Secondary memory, however, cannot be accessed directly by the CPU; it consists of external storage such as hard drives and CDs. Because secondary memory cannot be randomly accessed, using it is much slower than primary memory.
Although this distinction between primary and secondary storage has existed for decades, technological advancements have reached the point where this line is blurring or even disappearing. There have been significant advances made both in how the CPU communicates with storage and in the manufacturing and engineering of this storage.
In particular, solid-state drives (SSDs) represent a highly viable alternative to the traditional hard-disk drive (HDD). Unlike a hard-disk drive, SSDs contain no moving parts; they store information on a series of interconnected flash memory chips. This allows them to be much faster than HDDs. Many SSDs use a communications protocol known as NVMe (non-volatile memory express), making them even quicker than SSDs using the standard SATA interface — up to 10 times faster in many cases.
With the declining cost of computer hardware, a decent consumer-grade SSD with one terabyte of storage is now available for a few hundred dollars. Even in the recent past, that price would have been unimaginable, with 1 TB SSDs costing thousands of dollars. As hardware costs continue to decline, using modern storage technologies in the data center is becoming more and more appealing to organizations of all sizes and across all industries.
The Benefits of Modern Data Center Storage Solutions
Getting the Most Value From Your Data Center
The most obvious benefit of switching to a modern storage solution is the ability to "future-proof" your business. Many older storage technologies decline from their peak performance after only a couple of years and have roughly five years of usable life.
Instead of this inevitable decline due to physical limitations, modern storage technologies such as SSDs deliver a strong performance throughout the product's entire lifetime. Spending the money upfront on these technologies can bring you significant cost savings over the next few years as you continue to extract substantial value well into the medium term. In the meantime, you'll enjoy the other benefits of switching to newer data center storage technologies, such as improved speed and better user experience.
Using modern storage technologies can also help you consolidate and simplify the servers in your data center. If you have five older servers in one of your data center racks, for example, then you may only need two servers to replace them, thanks to a combination of newer computers and accelerated storage.
Getting the Most Value From Your Applications
Whether they're looking to get a car insurance quote or search through their email, customers today have grown to expect nearly lighting-fast speed when they interact with an application. However, customer-facing applications that rely on a slow storage method suffer from a noticeable lag, taking longer to retrieve the information that your customers need.
Serious delays in your application can cause users to get frustrated and lose confidence in you, even if your organization is outside the IT and software space. According to a study by analytics company Kissmetrics, 40 percent of users will abandon a website that takes more than three seconds to load. By using the fastest storage possible for your application, on the other hand, you'll seriously slash your lag times and offer a better experience to your customers.
Speeding up your internal applications also enables new possibilities and outcomes across a variety of domains. For example, machine learning algorithms can analyze images from MRI scans and diagnose the potential presence of a medical condition. In 2017, a model trained by Google was able to identify cancerous tumors from biopsy images with an accuracy of 89 percent, significantly higher than the 73 percent accuracy for human pathologists.
Naturally, training and testing these machine learning algorithms is highly intensive in terms of storage and processing power. It's only recently that advances in hardware have caught up with the underlying data science ideas. Using modern storage technologies not only helps healthcare organizations perform better, but it also helps patients get quick access to the treatment they need.
There are therefore multiple benefits of the right data center design: a better user experience for public-facing applications and a more productive business for internal applications.
Getting the Most Value From Your Square Footage
Finally, consider the physical impact of switching to a modern storage solution — operating a data center isn't cheap. For one, leasing storage is commonplace in today's data centers, which means that the amount of floor space you consume is significant concerning real estate.
Also, the necessary electricity and cooling can be expensive. Because modern storage technologies such as SSDs don't use spinning disks, they're much more power-efficient right off the bat. They can also fit more storage into less space, reducing the need for large storage arrays.
Using modern storage technologies doesn't just help you deliver a better user experience — it also shrinks your physical footprint within a data center. In doing so, you'll increase consolidation ratios, getting more workload out of a single floor tile. If you don't yet have the budget to replace all of your storage, you can also use newer tech like SSDs together with your legacy holdings to help extend the older tech's lifetime.
Whether you're considering redesigning your data center, new servers for your organization, or you need to extend the life of what you already have, you should seriously give thought to more modern storage technologies. These solutions can help you improve your application performance, workload consolidation, finances and so much more.
To learn about the benefits of modern storage technologies for your organization, give us a call. We can perform a needs assessment of your business so that you can see the potential impact of switching to this new standard of data center storage.