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A recent survey of IT professionals in the 451 Alliance reveals key trends in the IT infrastructure landscape. This report focuses on storage, particularly all-flash arrays (AFAs) and storage-class memory (SCM).

 
 

Report Highlights

 
 

The Need for Speed. Within the next year, more than half of the 451 Alliance companies will have deployed AFAs in production environments.

Turbocharged Flash. Organizations that need even more speed are anxious for emerging SCM technologies, which are due this year in arrays from leading storage vendors.

Throttled Adoption. Despite the performance advantages of flash storage, some companies have no plans to adopt it, mainly because they don’t need the speed and/or don’t have the cash.

 
 

Flash in the Plan

 
 

More than one-third (38%) of 451 Alliance survey participants are currently using AFAs, and another 13% plan to deploy them in the next 12 months.

 
 
Adoption of All Flash Array
 
 

Despite rapid adoption over the last several years – thanks largely to price drops – one-third of enterprises still have no plans to purchase AFAs. Most of the laggards are smaller companies that simply don’t have the need for the performance of AFAs and/or can’t afford them.

As an interim step, many companies are opting for less expensive hybrid (disk+flash) subsystems.

Almost all IT managers cite high performance as the main benefit of AFAs, but a few point to other factors, including:

  • Reduced datacenter and power footprint
  • Ease of management
  • Reliability

The benefits of AFAs are so significant that the majority (72%) of enterprises use flash technologies for all new block-based (i.e., SAN) workloads.

 
 

Deduplication and Compression

 
 

To maximize capacity and savings in physical space, enterprises are taking advantage of built-in data deduplication and compression.

Although some vendors claim unrealistic (and sometimes absurd) deduplication/compression ratios, the actual ratios experienced by users paint a more realistic picture.

About one-quarter (24%) of enterprises are getting dedupe/compression ratios of 2:1 or less; 53% achieve 2:1 to 5:1; 20% claim 5:1 to 10:1; and 4% claim that they are realizing space savings ratios that exceed 10:1.

Of course, the amount of compression and/or deduplication depends heavily on the type of data in the workload.

 
 
Flash Storage Space Savings Effect from Deduping
 
 

To minimize capital expenditures, 69% of IT organizations factor in deduplication/compression ratios when planning flash capacity requirements.

The remaining 31% do not take these ratios into consideration (sometimes simply because they find it difficult to accurately measure the ratios).

 
 

Storage-class Memory

 
 

To boost performance even further, some organizations are eyeing newer SCM technologies. Vendors such as Dell EMC, HPE and others are expected to add SCM to their arrays this year.

From a performance and price perspective, SCM sits between flash and DRAM, bridging the gap between server memory and external storage. And unlike DRAM, SCM provides persistent (non-volatile) storage.

Among the 451 Alliance companies, 22% have already deployed SCM, and another 10% plan to do so within the next 12 months.

 
 
Adoption of Storage Class Memory
 
 

However, in part because SCM is so new – and expensive compared to flash – 64% of the survey participants have no current plans to adopt SCM.

Most companies are willing to pay a price premium for the performance boost of SCM or other ‘new memory’ technologies.

 
 
Acceptable Price Premium for Storage Class Memory Performance Boost
 
 

Nearly one-third (31%) of organizations are not willing to pay a premium for new-memory speed boosts, because they simply don’t need the added performance.

 
 

Why Not Flash?

 
 

Despite rapid adoption of AFAs, some companies – mostly smaller organizations – are dragging their heels. There are a number of reasons for this recalcitrance, not the least of which is that they just don’t need the speed.

 
 
Reasons IT Organizations Aren't Deploying All-flash Storage
 
 

Dell, HPE on Top

 
 

The advent of new storage technologies such as AFAs has not – for the most part – changed the leaderboard of storage providers.

When asked to name their most important storage vendor, 24% of the 451 Alliance survey participants cited Dell EMC, followed by HPE at 13%. Rounding out the top four ‘traditional’ storage suppliers were IBM and NetApp.

However, what was surprising is the relatively recent addition of cloud service providers to the top seven suppliers list.

Some survey participants cited Microsoft, AWS or Google as their most important storage provider (although each weighed in with only single-digit percentages).

As the inexorable trend toward public cloud infrastructure continues, the cloud providers are expected to continue to increase their standings on the storage supplier leaderboard.