How Flash Storage Helps the Public Sector

This blog is an excerpt from GovLoop's recent industry perspective, Flash Forward: The Next Generation for Public Sector Organizations. Download the full perspective here

Government agencies – federal, state and local – must keep pace with technology change while at the same time operate in tighter budget environments. They must strive to foster better communication and information-sharing among their workforce, meet the increasing connectivity demands of their constituents and transition to cloud offerings and shared services.

What’s more, government data is growing exponentially, putting greater demands on agencies’ data storage capabilities at a time when security and data loss prevention have become national security issues. Government agencies at all levels are turning to solutions that are priced for performance and offer a dedicated high-performance storage platform to support workloads and databases that may be non- sequential.

All-flash storage array solutions can help government leaders and IT managers address these demands successfully. Flash can help agencies stay within budget while providing a higher level of storage performance, with the high Input/Output Operations Per Second (IOPS), consistent sub-millisecond latency and bandwidth that are essential for applications such as databases, analytics, backup and cloud services.

“There is a big inflection point happening in the marketplace now where a majority of acquisitions and procurements will either directly request all-flash array configurations or the solution will dictate the use of an all-flash array,” said Kirk Kern, Chief Technology Officer with NetApp U.S. Public Sector. Flash storage is at a point now where it offers a competitive advantage as well as a cost advantage, he said. “Before it was a trade-off between cost and performance, and now you get both. That makes it a forgone conclusion that if you have any sort of performance-based requirements you are going to use a flash device,” Kern said.

Flash offers a dedicated high-performance capability without consuming excessive rack-unit space, so agencies save on all the additional capital expenditures that go along with that, including power usage and cooling requirements.

An all-flash array is a solid state storage disk system that contains multiple flash memory drives instead of spinning hard disk drives. Flash memory, which has no moving parts, is a type of nonvolatile memory that can be erased and reprogrammed in units of memory called blocks.

Flash storage is a variation of erasable, programmable, read-only memory (EEPROM), which got its name because the memory blocks can be erased in a single action or “flash.” A flash array can transfer data to and from solid state drives (SSDs) much faster than electromechanical disk drives.

Additionally, it uses electricity to store data in addressable locations on a fixed, thin layer of oxide, so data is retained even when the power is off. Some reports indicate that flash storage consumes as little as 20 percent of the power of a traditional spinning hard drive and reads as much as 100 times faster.

“One of the typical things people want to know is how their workloads can benefit from flash,” said Dan Giannascoli, Database Solutions Architect with NetApp. “Not all workloads are the same.”

The two biggest applications targeted for flash arrays are virtual desktops and databases, which both generate a lot of random reads. SSDs typically enhance performance. Many people are under the impression, however, that they can use two or three SSDs to replace 50 spinning disks, and in some situations that may be not the case, Giannascoli said. That’s why flash is important to consider – instead of two or three SSDs, a flash array can transfer data to and from these SSDs.

“One of the big challenges in educating government customers is that even though SSD flash storage can absorb a lot of I/Os for many workloads, agencies may need more SSD disks than they actually thought, especially for sequential workloads,” Giannascoli said.

Given that cost drivers for flash are coming down, agencies want to put all types of applications on them. So it’s important to understand what is being put on SSDs.

Download the full perspective here

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