This is a guest blog post from Chad Sakac, DELL EMC President of Converged Platforms and Solutions Division. Chad leads the Dell EMC business responsible for the broad portfolio of next generation Converged Platforms & Solutions that allows customers to build their own outcomes by individually sourcing compute, networking, storage, and software, or buy their outcomes through integrated solutions. Chad authors one of the top 20 virtualization, cloud and infrastructure blogs, “Virtual Geek” and is proud to be an Executive Sponsor of EMC’s LGBTA employee circle.
A BIG list of challenges
The entire IT industry is in a state of disruption that is unlike anything I’ve seen in my IT career. I love it!
Recently meeting the CIO and the IT leadership team of a great customer, he commented that the disruption is not only unique in scope, but unique in that it is touching everything all at once.
Think about it.
- Massive workload movements to SaaS.
- The new and emerging role of container and cluster managers in the enterprise.
- Commercial and cultural disruption of open-source models.
- Continuing shift towards software-defined datacenter stacks as the “new x86 mainframe.”
- The bi-modal operational reality of ITSM/DevOps coexistence.
- The new role of IT as the service manager of public/private multiple clouds – and determining the best workload fit.
- The changing mobile device and client experience.
That’s insane. It’s a HUGE list – and it’s far from exhaustive.
It’s also an INTIMIDATING list.
Frankly, I’m finding a lot of customers are “stuck.” They are too paralyzed by the sheer number of things they are trying to make sense of to create patterns, to set priorities.
At another recent customer – like most customers – the CIO’s whiteboard had a list of “priorities.” There were 21 of them, which of course means no priority at all.
All those trends, buzzwords, and disruptors are real and are germane. But, wouldn’t it be nice to have one simple no-brainer thing? Something simple to do? Something that while simple, would have a big impact on IT?
Flash is that simple, no-brainer thing. It’s why flash is also the “IQ test” for 2016.
Flash (and here specifically I’m talking about NAND-based flash non-volatile memory) has crossed over in every metric. It’s time to consign hybrid designs and magnetic media to the dustbin of history. Flash is hundreds to thousands of times faster in terms of IOPS (throughput) and tens to hundreds of times faster in GBps (bandwidth). Flash, when measured with a common yardstick like IOPS, is hundreds of times denser and tens of times better on power consumption.
IQ Test #1 = Do you want to be 10-100x times faster? For the same price?
In the early days of flash, there was a lot of concern about wear. But this is now also a thing of the past. NAND vendors have figured out a continuum of Write Per Day (WPD) media forms. Storage vendors have optimized wear-levelling approaches and any storage vendor worth their salt has a program of “lifetime guarantee” of one sort or another to take the concern off the table. Are there differences in drive/media types? Yeah. Are there differences in array approaches to media management? Sure. Are they materially relevant? Nope.
IQ Test #2 = If there is a lifetime guarantee, why would you worry about wear?
Flash is now more financially viable, delivering better economics and better TCO. That’s BEFORE all the advances in data reduction, whether it’s 2:1 inline compression, n:1 data deduplication (highly variant based on data type), or mega-capacity drives (15TB and climbing).
IQ Test #3 = do you want all that goodness? At a BETTER price?
Furthermore, there are simpler ways to migrate in a non-disruptive fashion: VMAX All Flash supporting non-disruptive array-to-array migrations, VPLEX fronted systems being able to pop a new all-flash target behind them and magically migrate. Heck, VMware Storage VMotion is an incredible “any-to-any” migration tool that is totally non-disruptive.
IQ Test #4 = if you could get all the goodness of Flash, a great TCO, way better performance/cost/cooling/power benefits, and migration was simple – why wouldn’t you?
Yes, there are still some cases where magnetic media, in extremely capacity-dense use cases (Object Storage, capacity-oriented Scale-out NAS) is preferable. And, the drive manufacturers are doing all sorts of funky helium-filled drives to keep supporting that environment. But don’t let that distract you. In the enterprise, the vast majority of workloads are mostly transactional and for that universe, 2016 is the Year of All Flash (#YOAF!)
Yes, there are all sorts of interesting new non-volatile media types and interface forms that are emerging, from 3D Crosspoint to Phase-Change Memory and Carbon Nanotube-based memory. Form factors range from SAS (most common still) to NVMe (expect this to become the standard over the coming years. It will take a little bit of time for things like dual-ported interfaces to mainstream, meaning first use cases will be in SDS/HCI) and DIMM-based approaches (lots of interesting stuff on this path that will have commercial mass-market application in 2018). But don’t let that distract you. In our industry, things are always changing and moving. The key is to get on the train and not wait.
IQ Test #5 = why wait for some future benefits (which will only be additive), when there is an immediate benefit to moving from hybrids to all-flash approaches and every day that you don’t move, you’re wasting money?
Now, there are two ways to go all-flash: “Build” approaches and “Buy” approaches.
Some customers like the flexibility of a “Build” approach, where you pick components of a stack and put it all together. I must say, with each passing day, it becomes clearer that this is a waste of precious time and brain cells. But hey, if you want to muck around with building your own stack, you can simply start with something incredibly small and powerful, like a Dell EMC Unity All-Flash array – starting below $10K – and then add Dell EMC PowerEdge servers. Conversely, if you want to “build” but using a Hyper-Converged approach, you can start with Dell PowerEdge based VMware vSAN-Ready nodes and load them up with NAND-based flash.
More and more customers every day look at all infrastructure as a commodity and just want it turnkey. This is less flexible than the “Build” approach, but the “Buy” approach is far more outcome-oriented. For customers, willing to let go of the wheel and move on to the infrastructure equivalent of autonomous driving (someone else does it for you), they can transform their IT organization by freeing up dollars, hours, and synapses wasted on testing, building, and then doing all the lifecycle tasks (patch, maintain, test, validate, troubleshoot) inherent in infrastructure stacks. The “Buy” version comes in Converged and Hyper-Converged Infrastructure forms. Dell EMC VxBlock 350 (Converged) and VxRail (Hyper-Converged) are in both cases designed for all-flash.
In the end, while all IT practitioners must think about ALL the disruptive things changing and how to prioritize, don’t miss the opportunity for a no-brainer, quick-hit win. Go all-flash.
Great Dell Technologies partners like Softchoice see the same thing we see. Moving to all all-flash datacenter is the one of the simplest ways for their customers to move forward. They have developed a “tech check” which is a quick and easy best practice since they do this for many customers. What I love about pointing customers to our partner ecosystem is that many of them cover a diverse portfolio within the tech ecosystem. The best partners specialize of course, but even then, they can act as trusted consultative partners to the customer. The points I’ve made about the drivers for 2016 being the Year of All Flash are certainly true for Dell Technologies (Dell EMC, VMware most of all) – but isn’t limited to us. Softchoice’s approach is vendor agnostic.
The Softchoice Datacenter Techcheck will assess the specific workloads and the specific environment of a specific customer and generate specific savings, efficiency gains, and ultimately the TCO of moving forward into the all-flash era.
Flash. It’s the IQ Test of 2016.