I Feel The Need… The Need For Flash

Near the end of World War II, Allied flight crews saw the end of an era. Propeller-driven aircraft like the P-51 Mustang and Spitfire were fast, but in 1945 they encountered the Messerschmitt 262 jet fighter.


The jet-powered Messerschmitt was 100 mph faster than a propeller plane and could both outrun and out climb Allied aircraft. A propeller is bound by physical laws and can only spin so fast. More expensive jet engines were not constrained by the same physical limitations and a new era of high-speed air travel began.


In today’s world, there’s something similar happening in your datacenter. Hard drives, like propellers, are mechanical devices bound by mechanical limitations. Today’s disk drives max out at 15,000 rpms and, like the prop-based fighter planes of WWII, can only go so fast.

How Fast is Flash?

When it comes to speed, flash is not just a little faster than disk. It is orders of magnitude faster. This is the sort of revolution that changes data center design.

One way to measure performance is in the time it takes to access data. Flash access times are measured in microseconds that are 1,000 times faster than the millisecond access times for disk. Wow.  


Another way to measure speed is in how much work a flash device can accomplish.


We measure this by looking at a metric called IOPS, or the number of input and output operations your device can deliver in one second (Input/Output Operations Per Second). Here flash is equally compelling. A flash device can deliver over 200,000 IOPS compared with only 200 IOPS from the fastest disk drives. Wow.



If your business is built on speed-whether for massive Web analytics, time-critical financial transactions, or actionable analytics-storage performance can transform your business. It simply makes sense that faster data access and more storage processing will improve the responsiveness of your business.

Flash Is Cheaper

There’s a myth I need to squash: It says that flash storage is more expensive than disk storage. That’s true if you’re measuring storage capacity, but not if you’re measuring speed.

When you’re in the business of speed, you need to measure cost relative to the advantage that performance gives. Jet engines might be more expensive than propeller engines, but not when measured by winning dogfights.    


In fact, flash turns out to be 100 times cheaper than disk when measured by any performance metric. That 100x difference in performance per dollar is a true game-changer.

This is why businesses that depend on performance to delight customers, change business models, and reach decisions faster are building their businesses on flash. Where performance matters, you will see flash replacing spinning disks as if they were obsolete airplane propellers.

An Impatient World

We know that data is growing, but that’s a capacity issue that is largely solved by disk drives. But if your business is built for speed, it isn’t about how much data you can hold but how fast you can get to it, process it, and deliver it.


Here’s what we know right now. You and I don’t wait for search results. We move on. We know that the investment firm trading faster gets your business. We know that our world today is built around an increasing need for data right now.


And don’t just take my word for it: The University of Massachusetts Amherst did research showing that not only does performance impact user interaction. They further showed that impatience with poor performance increased for high-performance users.


In other words, the more people paid, the less they were willing to wait. They also discovered that abandonment starts to happen with delays as short as two seconds before users click away.

Reach For The Skies

Let’s go back to our WWII aircraft analogy one more time: Pick your plane based on whether you need speed or capacity.

For capacity, choose the B-17 or Lancaster bomber that compare with massive, but slow disk drives. For speed, pick a jet that can outmaneuver the bombers. The cost of each is optimized for its expertise.

For Performance, You Can’t Afford Slow Disk Drives

Speed is an integral part of your business-you can’t afford slow disk drives. It’s simply too expensive. You need to invest in the jet fighter. And-surprise-it costs less!

After the jet engine, the world was never the same again. After flash, your data center won’t be either.


[Image via Flickr / Air Combat Command]