Has NetApp Changed its Position re Flash ?
In a Register article I read today http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/02/19/netapp_flashray/ Chris Mellor stated
NetApp in marketing terms has made a U-turn. It may well deny it and probably will, merely acknowledging a slight change in direction. I’ve had a NetApp office of the CTO guy try to convince me that there is only a need for flash as a cache and not a tier and have seen the strenuous efforts NetApp people have made in the past to deny the validity of cache as a storage tier. Huh! If it quacks like a duck, paddles like a duck and flies like a duck then it is a duck. And this is a U-turn.
I posted a reponse on the column, and in it I said, “There is no U-Turn, there is simply a logical progression to a future state”. The rest of this post is pretty much what’s in the comment response, but I thought I’d post it here because I’ll probably want to refer back to it some other time, (that and the fact I can fix spelling mistakes more easily here)
Using flash to temporarily store hot data still makes sense for the vast majority of workloads, whether you do this as a tier or as cache (or from my perspective whether it’s a write behind or write through cache), the economics of flash and disk today make this the best way of applying solid state storage to business problems, especially in shared and virtualised environments where IT efficiency and reliability are the primary concerns. That’s why the vast majority of flash storage sold to enterprises has been in hybrid arrays, NetApp alone has sold more than 35PB of flash in hybrid arrays, which simply dwarfs the shipments from pure Flash arrays.
Within the context of most shared virtualised infrastructure, Flash as a cache or temporary storage tier is still the best possible solution, however there is a major architectural change happening where massive amounts of solid state storage will be increasingly built directly into the server infrastructure, like a Macbook Air on steroids. The performance benefits of having that cache very close to the CPU can be impressive, and for the right workload dedicating some flash in the server to that application can have amazing results, just ask Fusion I/O … That is what FlashAccel is all about, as this lets you easily dedicate a few hundred GB of flash to just one part of your infrastructure.
There are however some applications like high frequency trading where a few hundred GB just isn’t enough. These applications need large amounts of dedicated high speed kit, and when millisecond time differences result in million dollar profit differences, efficiency gives way to no-compromise performance. It is these kinds of applications that the EF540 is perfect for, just the same way as the E5400 is perfect for other kinds of HPC and Big Data environments.
There are a whole stack of new applications being built today that will be able to generate this kind of business value in the future, and many of them will work better with a combination of the raw power of the EF540 and the advanced data management of ONTAP. They will be able to take advantage of the latent unused power of an adjacent cloud infrastructure, and will be part of the next generation of hybrid IT infrastructure that encompasses dedicated infrastructure, internal/private and external/public cloud. By that time the economics and technology of solid state or storage class memory will be significantly different than they are today. The future of IT infrastructure will be very interesting, and the future of storage will be even more so.
FlashRay is built for that future.