Prediction: The future of all-flash arrays is not all flash

IT is driven by new and disruptive technologies, and we see more rapid technology evolution now than at any time I can remember. The new technologies that tend to be adopted fastest are those that improve what is currently deployed, not promise to replace it.

Flash storage technology has transformed enterprise storage. Flash powers massive e-commerce sites, makes large-scale VDI deployments practical, speeds up databases without recoding, and accelerates all storage systems in general. All storage arrays now use a hybrid mix of solid-state drives (SSDs) and disk.

But the notion that flash will replace disk entirely in the data center is just not economically realistic. Flash costs are falling fast, but so are disk costs. The least expensive flash in 2020 will still be 10 times the $/GB of the least expensive spinning disk. At this ratio, I believe that 80 percent or more of online data will remain on spinning disk, even as flash is used to serve a larger percentage of truly active data. And data will move from disk to flash frequently as it is needed.

Without close integration with disk storage, all-flash arrays will become islands. Their performance advantage is disappearing—NetApp® hybrid FAS arrays have already been optimized to deliver SSD IOPs performance comparable to all-flash arrays. Storage efficiency applies equally to flash and disk. Applications can be nondisruptively moved between flash nodes and disk nodes as needed. This close integration is what will drive broad adoption of all-flash across the data center.

–Jay Kidd, CTO, NetApp