The Future of Flash Storage in Government

This interview is an excerpt from our recent guide, 30 Government Innovations That Mattered in 2015 which examines 30 government case studies that explore innovation at all levels of government. Innovations that spanned the government job spectrum from human resources to cybersecurity and back again.

The public sector is finally getting up to speed in the IT arena. More and more agencies are focusing on trends like IT-as-a-Service, data analytics, and cloud computing. Meanwhile, citizens are expecting more from the government, including high performance, always-on availability, and assurance that their data is always safe.

These new trends and expectations mean that more than ever, government needs scalable, flexible solutions that are reliable, efficient, and easy to manage. And that’s where the growing adoption of flash storage comes in.

Flash storage is a type of data repository or storage system that uses flash memory – and its use in the public sector has been exploding. GovLoop sat down with Jennifer Welch, Chief Technologist at HP Enterprise, to unpack and understand some of the benefits of flash storage for the public sector.

Welch noted that these days, the technology challenges government faces are more varied and complex than ever before. They include the need for big data analytics to drive mission performance, transparency to build public confidence, mobility to better equip employees and their constituents, and cybersecurity to protect critical infrastructure and services.

To manage initiatives like these, an agency’s IT infrastructure must be highly scalable, rapidly accessible to multiple applications, and flexible. At the same time, agencies must acquire these capabilities without exponentially expanding their operations budget.

“Flash has fundamentally changed the way IT can operate in the public sector,” Welch said. Flash storage is compelling because it’s generally simpler than conventional storage. Instead of using a spinning disk and roving reading arm to store data, flash uses electricity to store data in addressable locations on a fixed, thin layer of oxide. Data is retained even when the power is off. There are no moving parts.

What this means, Welch explained, is that flash storage regularly consumes as little as 20 percent of the power of a traditional spinning hard drive, yet reads as much as 100 times faster.

Price points can be an issue with flash, but used in combination with conventional storage, and it can actually reduce overall costs for agencies.

“Flash has definitely come down in price,” Welch said. “If you have the budget to spend, it’s a good investment for the public sector since we know IT is heading in that direction anyway.”

Welch added that using HP’s flash storage solutions are in fact an excellent investment, simply for the reason they don’t lock you into a drive size or type.

“From a total cost of ownership, what we can offer any customer is the ability of a performance guarantee,” Welch said. “You may not know right now if you need all flash, or a little bit of flash. But with HP Enterprise, you can mix and match. We can tell you, well right now you can get a little bit a flash and grow it. But we’re not going to make you do a specific drive. You can have 480 gig drives next to 1.92 terabyte drives, next to 3.84 terabyte drives. And you can then grow at your own pace.”

Welch explained that many other vendors in the flash storage arena tend to get more of a drive lock in – meaning if you start with a certain drive type, you have to fill out an entire disk array enclosure with just that drive type. Or worse yet, you start with one drive type, and the entire array has to be the same drive type until you know the end of that array.

“We’re not making you pick and choose in terms of having to buy an all flash to get all flash performance, and then you have to buy a different array or deal with something different if you want spinning media,” Welch said. “It’s the same architecture, it’s the same benefits, it’s the same kind of performance that you would get one versus the other. And the best thing I think for anybody who’s looking at drives and doesn’t have a Magic 8 ball that sees into the future, in terms of what you might need six months from now, or what you’ll need two years from now, is we’re not making you choose.”

As government continues embrace flash to accelerate more applications across their data centers, this flexibility will be key. Flash storage can help the public sector create great solutions to power their public, private, or hybrid clouds with uncompromising adaptability from a single architecture – serving the needs of agency IT departments and the end users.


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