Evolution of All Flash Arrays – Executive Summary

In 2009, Wikibon projected that flash would be the lower cost alternative for active data. Figure 1 shows Wikibon’s technology projection for pure capacity data. It shows that flash (the blue line) will become a lower cost media than disk (the red line) for almost all storage in 2016, as scale-out storage technologies enable higher levels of data sharing, and lower storage costs.

Figure1 – Projection of Technology Costs of Capacity Magnetic Disk Drives and Flash Technologies 2015 – 2020
Source: © Wikibon 2015. See Figure 2 below for more details and assumptions

The green line in Figure 1 shows the ratio between capacity flash and capacity HDD. The is -50% in 2015 (Flash is twice the cost). By 2016, flash will be 19% lower cost, and this will grow quickly from 2017-2020. The keys to achieving the lower costs of flash are:

  • Consumer demand for flash that will continue to drive down enterprise flash costs;
  • New scale-out flash array architectures that allow physical data to be shared across many applications without performance impacts;
  • New data center deployment philosophies that allow data to be shared across the enterprise rather than stove-piped in storage pools dedicated to particular types of applications.

This research discusses the key trends in flash and disk technologies in detail and the potential impact of new application design philosophies. Wikibon concludes that actions are require by all constituents of the ecosystem to make this happen:

  1. CXOs and senior enterprise business leaders will need to restore their faith that IT can and will improve its dismal record of delivering on complex deployments. Business game-changing potential waits for enterprises that develop and deploy new data-rich applications that can profoundly improve productivity and revenue potential. These application that combine operation with in-line analytics can only be realized on flash-only shared-data environments.
  2. IT senior management will need to change and reorganize IT infrastructure management, slim down infrastructure staffing, automate and orchestrate deployment of IT resources, and move rapidly towards a shared data philosophy enabled by flash storage deployment for almost all enterprise data.
  3. All-flash array vendors and other flash architectures will need to focus on developing scale-out architectures and maximize the potential for data sharing.

The end-point of the adoption of flash-only persistent storage is a completely “electronic data center“, with no mechanical components except for a few pumps and fans. Within the electronic data center, electronic storage will allow logical sharing of the same physical data to be fully enabled. CEOs should be asking IT about definitive plans to move to an electronic data center, the timescale of the migration, and information about the first application(s) to employ the electronic storage to radically improve enterprise productivity and revenue.