Is Hybrid Data Storage a Solution for you?

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As the 2016 New Year unfolds, the demand for secure data storage will increase at every level within the IT stack. According to the 2015 Cyber Defense Report, 70% of organizations have been compromised by a successful data breach within the last 12-months. With a zero-trust data protection mantra, new pervasive data security solutions will emerge to touch applications, endpoints, networks and storage collectively. Encryption technology alone, when keys are managed by employees in both on-premise and Cloud environments, is not an adequate cyber-attack deterrent, while control over data location and redundancy are key to maintaining compliance, data privacy and security across global, heterogeneous infrastructures.

To keep up with the burgeoning big-data deluge, organizations continue to move larger workloads into unified/virtualized environments, both on-premise and cloud. Many have already successfully deployed a variety of high-performance hybrid data storage solutions into the data center landscape. In a recently released survey by ActualTech Media, many of these enterprises have begun incorporating flash-based storage in their data centers, ie. 41% use on-premise HDD only; 9% are using off-premise/Cloud only; while 50% of respondents are already using some type of on-premise flash-based storage (3% all-flash, 47% hybrid mix flash/HDD). With all the significant benefits virtualization brings to the IT infrastructure, one factor has inhibited wide-scale legacy application virtualization, and that is performance.

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Bandwidth, IOPS and latency, are standard storage performance metrics typically measured in milliseconds, with flash drives specs within fractions-of-a-millisecond. As data storage is usually the IT infrastructure latency bottleneck, minimizing latency is a key objective for faster I/O completions and faster transaction processing. As latency has a direct impact on VM performance in virtualized environments, an adoption of solid-state storage incorporating flash-caching hardware and software is enabling very low latencies while simultaneously helping to minimize network bandwidth bottlenecks. Flash SSD advantages include higher IOPS, reduced cooling, reduced power and lower failure rates than standard HDD. Although flash SSD storage costs are rapidly declining  and are still a 2x factor higher than HDD per terabyte (depending on TCO variables), a combined hybrid SSD/HDD automated tiered storage solution offers compelling metrics that IT professionals are finding both acceptable and in-budget. SSD-based data storage technology provides true business value by enabling faster access to information and real-time analytics. A hybrid SSD/HDD solution enables IT to balance cost and performance to meet their unique application and SLA requirements.

Which flash-based SSD solution is truly right for your environment? There are many factors to consider when comparing industrial-grade versus commercial-grade flash storage devices. Industrial-grade utilizes SLC (Single Level Cell) NAND versus commercial-grade MLC (Multi Level Cell) as the data storage medium. Based on voltage, SLC records only a single value (0-1, on-off), where MLC can store up to four values (00, 01, 10 or 11) in two-bits of data. SLC NAND has 20-30x more endurance cycles over MLC NAND, better data retention life and extreme temperature functionality.

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  • SLC (Single Level Cell)
    • highest performance, high cost, enterprise grade NAND
    • 90-100,000 program/erase cycles per cell (highest endurance)
    • lowest density (1 bit per cell, lower is better for endurance)
    • lower power consumption
    • faster write speeds
    • much higher cost (3x higher than MLC)
    • best fit for industrial grade devices, embedded systems, critical applications
  • eMLC (Enterprise Multi Level Cell)
    • good performance, aimed at enterprise use
    • 20-30,000 program/erase cycles per cell
    • higher density (2 bits per cell)
    • lower endurance limit than SLC, higher than MLC
    • lower cost
    • good fit for light enterprise use & high-end consumer products with more disk writes than consumer-grade MLC
  • MLC (Multi Level Cell)
    • average performance, consumer grade NAND
    • 10,000 program/erase cycles per cell
    • higher density (2 or more bits per cell)
    • lower endurance limit than SLC
    • lower cost (3x lower than SLC)
    • good fit for consumer products (..not for critical applications which require frequent updates of data)

The pros and cons of HDD compared to SSD can be paired down to a handful of variables, ie. availability, capacity, durability, encryption, environment (humidity/temperature), fragmentation, heat/BTU’s produced, mtbf/failure-rate, noise, physical form-factor, power requirements, price, shock/vibration, speed, warranty, and write-protection capabilities. Write-protection at the SSD and HDD firmware level, not just the physical data and file system level, is one of the key differentiators when comparing secure SSD/HDD storage technology solutions. There are only a small number of manufacturers offering such functionality and price is presently a premium variable of consideration. HDD are vulnerable to magnetic pulse and x-ray, making automated replication to alternate HDD, storage arrays and locations a necessity, driving up cost while still ultimately susceptible to data loss. SSD is impervious to their effects making it not only a viable tier-0 high-performance data cache solution, but potentially a new long-term active-archive storage tier solution. New ISO and NIST secure storage regulatory compliance can also be a factor when evaluating which flash-based solution will best fit your requirements, as well as DOD 5220, EU-DPD, HIPPA, FedRamp, IRIC 106, NIST FIPS/FISMA/SP-800, NSA 130-2, PCI/DSS, and many others.

For more in-depth technical comparisons and product information, give Digistor a call today at 800-816-1886 or email us at sales@digistor.com.

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