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 movement to SaaS; rediscovering the lost art of software development via Cloud Native apps/digital enterprise agendas; the new and emerging role of container and cluster managers in the enterprise; the commercial and cultural disruption of open-source models; the continued shift towards software-defined datacenter stacks as the “new x86 mainframe”; the move away from component-level construction/operation of storage/network/storage towards consumption of converged and hyper-converged infrastructure stacks; whole new data layers, data fabrics and analytics engines; the ever changing client landscape; the bi-modal operational reality of ITSM/DevOps coexistence; the new role of IT as the services manager of Private/Public multiple hybrid clouds – and determining best workload fit; to a changing mobile device and client experience…
That’s insane. It’s a HUGE list – and far from exhaustive.
It’s also an INTIMIDATING list – because they are all real (not just hullaballoo) and material. These are changes that MATTER.
Frankly I’m finding a lot of customers are “stuck”… they are paralyzed by the sheer amount of things they are trying to make sense of, to create patterns, to set priorities.
At another recent customer meeting in Chicago the CIO whiteboard had a list of “priorities”. There were 21 of them, which of course means no priority at all. That CIO is not alone.
All of those trends/buzzwords/disruptors are real, and are germane.
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 doesn’t substitute for tackling all those other broader topics, but if you can’t wrap your head around this, it might be time to retire :-) It’s why I also think of the embrace of Flash as 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 – and it’s time to consign hybrid designs, and magnetic media to the dustbin of history for anything transactional.
Flash is hundreds to thousands of times faster in terms of IOPS (throughput), tens to hundreds of times faster in GBps (bandwidth).
Flash (when measured with a common yardstick like IOPS) is hundreds of times more dense, 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 of 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? Heck – no moving parts is a feature, not a bug.
Flash is now more financially viable – delivering better economics and better TCO, and 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), 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 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 – and heck, VMware Storage VMotion is an incredible “any to any” migration tool that is totally non-disruptive (not only array-to-array to Unity, XtremIO, SC and every other array - but also all-flash SDS deployments of vSAN and ScaleIO).
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 will rule for a long time, in extremely capacity-dense use cases (Object Storage, capacity-oriented Scale-out NAS) – and the drive manufacturers are doing all sorts of funky helium filled drives to keep supporting that environment and the hyperscale players – 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!)
Furthermore, the Non-Volatile Memory (NVM) innovation wave is only getting started. There’s all sorts of interesting new non-volatile media types and interface forms that are emergent, from 3D Crosspoint, Phase-Change Memory, Carbon Nanotube-based memory. Form factors range from SAS (most common still), NVMe (expect this to become the standard over the coming years – but will take a little bit of time for things like dual-ported interfaces to mainstream… meaning first use cases will be in SDS/HCI that use the singe-ported media that is the mass-market), and DIMM-based approaches (lots of interesting stuff on this path that will have commercial mass-market application in 2018 as part of the Kabylake Intel wave)… 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 of 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 (the “build” to “buy” continuum here).
Some customers like the flexibility of a “Build” approach where you pick components of a stack, and put it all together. I have to say, with each and each passing day, it becomes more clear 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 incredible small and powerful, like a Dell EMC Unity or SC All-Flash array – starting below $10K – and then add Dell EMC PowerEdge servers. If you want something more high-end, with scale-out multi engine architecture – you would start with Dell EMC XtremIO and VMAX All Flash. Conversely, if you want to “build” but using a Software-Defined Hyper-Converged approach, you can start with Dell PowerEdge based VMware vSAN-Ready or ScaleIO-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 (by definition) than the “Build” approach, but the “Buy” approach is far more outcome oriented – and 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, 540, and 740 family (Converged Infrastructure) and VxRail and VxRack (Hyper-Converged Infrastructure). In both cases, these CI and HCI systems are designed for all-flash – in every way.
Look - in the end, all IT practitioners have to thinks about ALL the disruptive things changing. We have to think about the short, mid, and long terms. We need to think about the big picture.
That said, prioritize. That said, don’t overthink. That said, MOVE FAST. Don’t miss up 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.
I met them recently in my home-town, and we were talking about how to help customers. Softchoice has developed a portfolio of “TechChecks” – not only for infrastructure (including the effect of going all-flash), but for SaaS, licensing state and more.
The Partner ecosystem is good that this for two reaons:
- Partners make this quick and easy – they refine their best practice since they do this for many customers.
- Partners are not vendor oriented, they are customer oriented. What I love about pointing customers to our partner ecosystem is that many of them cover a diverse portfolio within the tech ecosystem. If Dell EMC isn’t the right answer for the customer – so be it. I’m confident in the strength of our offers – confident enough to point to people who carry a broader portfolio.
The best partners specialize of course – but even then, they can act as a trusted consultative partner for 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 TechCheck will assess the specific workloads, the specific environment, of a specific customer – and generates a specific savings, efficiency gain and ultimately the TCO of moving forward into the all-flash era.
Flash. It’s the IQ Test of 2016.