Though much of the details may happen behind the scenes, storage has become an integral part in IT operations, which in turn greatly affects the functions of many businesses. Of particular importance is the growth of flash storage among enterprises. In the heated struggle between hard disk drives (HDD) and solid-state drives (SSD), it appears that flash is starting to pull ahead as more businesses understand and take advantage of its strengths. It wasn’t always this way, however. The point where we now find flash storage is just the latest stop on what has been a long journey -- an evolution showcasing the changes found in many technologies. It may have been a long time coming, but flash storage has emerged as a powerful component within the IT industry. Tracking that evolution can also help enterprises get a better picture of where flash storage will likely take them in the years to come.
Flash storage isn’t exactly a new phenomenon. While hard disk drives have been the dominant choice for many decades, solid-state drives have been around for almost as long. Certain barriers, most notably the price tag, kept it from gaining ground for most of that time. As the years went on, however, flash storage became more widely used. Of particular note is the acceptance it gained among mainstream consumers in the mid-2000s. While the average consumer may have asked, “what is flash storage?”, they were likely using it without realizing it. Flash storage was part of the Apple iPod when it first debuted in 2005, the first such large-scale consumer product to use flash. The unique attributes associated with flash storage allowed this change to happen since flash lead to smaller, lighter, more resilient mobile devices. In fact, flash is one the key ingredients that ushered in the explosion of mobile devices around the world.
As more mainstream consumers used flash storage products, more businesses were employing flash in their own IT departments. It stands to reason that as time goes on, technologies become improved. Hard disk drives went through a similar evolution as they became cheaper to manufacture. Flash storage is going through that same process, with much of the development accentuating the advantages of flash, including faster performance, lower prices, and increased availability. These traits are ones many companies wish to capture as numerous applications have moved online. Consumers are demanding better performance for those applications, and businesses want to be in a position to deliver it to them. This less expensive and higher performing evolution has not only turned flash storage into a competitive alternative to hard disk drives, it has made flash the preferred option.
Many enterprises are now tailoring their IT infrastructure around flash, making sure all their equipment is optimized for that storage method. Much of the development of storage features is now being driven by new advances in flash technology. In a sense, flash storage has taken over the driver’s seat, and many enterprises with high-demand data centers are more than willing to focus their efforts on adopting the technology. Many tech experts say this isn’t just a temporary fad either. The improvements happening to flash storage are happening at an even faster rate than Moore’s Law, which means performance and density will only get better as the price continues to decline. The result will be a wide range of choices that enterprises can adopt. Some may choose to go with an all-flash array, while others have differing levels of hybrid arrays they can integrate.
Many other trends have also made contributions to the evolution of flash storage in IT. As more business embrace big data analytics, they’ll need the added performance and capabilities offered by flash storage. Data access will become a critical component, and more companies will need flash to ensure their most mission critical applications remain running in top condition. The future will likely lead to IT infrastructure composed of all-flash environments. That is not to say that hard disk drives will be tossed aside as an outdated technology. HDDs still have their uses, but it’s clear that flash storage will become a widely used storage method whether for on-premise IT departments or through the cloud. Flash storage will continue to evolve, and more businesses will be better off because of it.