The drive to All-Flash Array

One of the most exciting innovations being brought to the storage space is All-Flash Array (AFA). With AFA expected to grow at a rate of 13.23 percent CAGR between 2018 and 2022, it’s clear that this is one of the most in-demand technology solutions.1

The reason behind the increasing demand for AFA is simple; the speed and efficiency of flash enables organisations to fully capitalise on data-intensive technology solutions, which ultimately gives them a competitive advantage in the modern, data-driven market. With digital transformation being a necessary priority among organisations, only AFA storage technology capable of meeting the speed demands of a digitally transformed environment.

The benefits of All-Flash Arrays to enterprise

Historically, flash was the expensive storage solution, used only for the most high priority applications, with HDDs being used instead for the bulk of an organisation’s storage needs. The falling cost of flash however, is making AFAs more practical to organisations, and those that invest in AFAs enjoy significantly competitive advantages including:

  • The ability to handle masses of data coming through extremely high-transaction or throughput applications. For example, financial trades, e-commerce sites, and on-demand streaming services.
  • Stronger security and integrity of data through features such as deduplication, snapshots, encryption, and RAID support.
  • Data access, which is a competitive advantage in this highly dynamic modern business environment.
  • AFAs also form a critical part of the technology infrastructure layer that will enable heavy-workload applications of the future, such as AI and blockchain.

Most critically, Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe)-accelerated, all-flash storage, enables enterprises to build multi-cloud environments. The efficiency boost in application performance and the flexibility that AFAs have to expand existing storage onto the cloud – which enables organisations to create highly scalable environments – is critical to keep pace with the evolving needs of the enterprise.

Why now?

Now that SSD technology has become so price-competitive, there are few advantages in maintaining traditional HDD environments. Those environments, which struggle to add capacity and operate flexible, multi-cloud environments, simply cannot meet the needs of the modern enterprise. In other words, organisations that don’t invest in AFAs will find themselves at a competitive disadvantage, with their slower infrastructure struggling to leverage data in a modern context.

Furthermore, digital transformation is considered to be a critical priority among enterprises at the moment, as CIOs look to overhaul their core systems towards having a more nimble, agile, and powerful platform to build innovation on. The old adage “disrupt or be disrupted” has never been more true than it is now, and that’s why IDC data shows that investment in digital transformation soared over $1 trillion in 2018,2 and will reach close to $2 trillion by 2022.3

For more information on IBM AFA solutions, click here.


How All-Flash Arrays Benefit All Sectors

As outlined in the previous article, All-Flash Array (AFA) is providing organisations that are undertaking digital transformation exercises with fast, reliable storage solutions.

The key benefit of AFA is the speed that it enables within an environment. That speed and the efficiency of flash storage subsequently enables organisations to innovate within their IT environment, and embrace advanced technologies that require fast, dynamic storage, such as AI, blockchain, and so on. So, any organisation that is looking to adopt advanced applications will also find value in putting an AFA at the core of the solution.

All-Flash Arrays in motion

One example of a sector that is benefiting greatly from the advantages of AFA storage is healthcare. The University of Pittsburgh, for example, was able to leverage AFA storage solutions to drive a 2,4000 percent growth in storage under management, while simultaneously improving patient record seek times by 50 percent, and reducing response times by an incredible 99.9 percent.

The University of Rochester Medical Center, meanwhile, was able to leverage its AFA system to deliver 10x faster system response times, an improvement of 70 per cent on data compression, and a 97 percent reduction in the time taken for system integrity checks. Additionally, as another cost-saving measure, the university was able to cut the physical floorspace required for the system from six floor tiles to 2U of rack space.

Across the world, there’s an increasing push to digitise patient records, host them within the cloud, and have them instantly accessible if a doctor should need them. Such systems, which are often nation-wide in scope, will result in large numbers of queries to systems in real-time. The potential there is for health care to become inefficient, if systems are not equipped with infrastructure capable of running with large amounts of data in real time.

AFA systems, such as what is provided through IBM’s FlashSystem solution, is capable of handling that new paradigm for patient care. As seen in both the University of Rochester and the University of Pittsburgh (both of which adopted IBM FlashSystem solutions), the benefit that AFA returned to the organisations was in the speed of access at the user end – in other words, AFA is helping organisations deliver better patient service and outcomes.

All-Flash Arrays by sector

Of course, healthcare isn’t the only sector that stands to benefit from AFA storage. Financial services organisations can substantially lower their trading times, and online retailers can run more advanced shopping platforms with faster processing. Also, security organisations can layer advanced AI applications over the camera technology.

AFA benefits all sectors, because one of the biggest strengths of AFA as a technology is its versatility. IBM FlashSystem V9000, for example, can be deployed for any number of reasons. It offers cost savings by massively improving data storage economics. It offers effortless scale-out and scale-up capabilities for both capacity and performance scale-up and scale-out options, meaning that it can form the underlying infrastructure component of a digital transformation exercise. AFAs that are NVMe-ready enable multi cloud environments, which gives organisations access to a breadth of new technology: such as those currently on the market, as well as technology that will come in the near future.

As reported in Forbes, 79 percent of enterprise executives agree that companies who “do not embrace Big Data will lose their competitive position and face extinction.”1 A further 59 percent of executives say that big data at their company would improve through the use of AI. With so much at stake in terms of how an organisation collects, retains, and uses data, AFA is poised to be the most important technology investment that organisations across all sectors can make.

For more information on IBM All-Flash Array solutions, click here


How All-Flash Arrays future proof organisations

Digital transformation is right at the top of mind for organisations. As reported in a previous article, IDC data shows that investment in digital transformation leapt over $1 trillion in 2018, and will reach close to $2 trillion in 2022.

It’s easy to understand why there’s such urgency to invest in transformation, as transformation projects help to future proof an organisation by modernising its IT infrastructure, and giving it a leadership position in the market by being able to be more responsive, agile, and innovative. Digital transformation projects can – and often do – fail, despite the appetite among CIOs, and the sheer investment that’s being thrown into transformation projects. All that effort is for naught if the right technologies are not adopted as part of the transformation strategy, however.

The key to a successful transformation project is in the foundation. All-Flash Arrays (AFAs) are a core part of that foundation, and that comes down to speed. Many of the advanced technologies that organisations look to for competitive advantage – such as AI and blockchain – require data to be handled in real-time, and the amount of data that is produced by these applications is extreme. Only AFAs are able to reach the speed and data bandwidth rates to enable these applications – and any other future technologies – to operate as intended.

On a more granular level, AFA systems, such as the IBM FlashSystem V9000, achieves the real-time data capabilities mentioned above through real-time compression, dynamic tiering, thin provisioning, data copy services and high-availability configurations. This means complete compatibility and efficiency for any applications that are leveraging the storage system, and, in turn, all of these features are highly regarded for any organisation that is looking to undergo a digital transformation project, to prepare the business for the future implementation of advanced, data-hungry applications.

Why AFA is at the centre of future proofing

Another way to look at a digital transformation exercise is as an effort by an enterprise to “future proof” their environment. Through transformation, an organisation is looking to build a technology platform that can be scaled out to continue to serve their needs into the foreseeable future. AFAs are a part of that process by improving the speed and efficiency of data. They offer capacity, a smaller physical footprint, and scalability without sacrificing speed and efficiency.

In addition, an AFA offers numerous more general benefits back into the business on an ongoing basis, that will continue to be relevant over the long term. At a time where efficiency and cost-effectiveness is critical, an AFA storage environment can offer substantially better TCOs to the enterprise:

  • AFA reduces hardware requirements, as there are many fewer SSDs needed for the same result that traditional HDDs previously provided. This frees up services to be redeployed or repurposed.
  • AFA also has reduces the energy requirements to run a storage environment. The organisation saves significant money on power and upkeep costs, and can repurpose that budget for finding competitive advantage.
  • AFA can be used as the basis for an accelerated journey to the multi-cloud. AFAs enable organisations to better leverage hybrid cloud environments to build innovation with greater efficiency.

Historically an AFA has been seen as an expensive solution, but with the cost of flash falling, and its capabilities in enabling other advanced technologies on the network, the ROI with AFAs is now market leading, and those organisations that do want to take a innovation and leadership position need to move to AFA as part of their transformation strategy.

For more information on IBM’s AFA solutions, and how it might fit into a transformation strategy, click here.