What’s Causing the Flash Storage Market to Grow So Quickly?

What’s Causing the Flash Storage Market to Grow So Quickly?

September 8

Last week, Brett Nordquist wrote about how new flash technologies are helping data centers, and I am going to piggy-back on that topic and discuss how flash got its comeuppance, similar to the way the hard drive did in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Eric Herzog, chief marketing officer and senior vice president of alliances at Violin Memory, explained that where the market is at today — in terms of an economic tipping point — is that flash is more cost effective for the primary Tier 0, 1 and 2 in enterprise data services accounts.

“That is happening right now, which is why the marketing is growing,” he said.

Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, tape was the No. 1 form of storage, Herzog said. He gave the example of the 1994 Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, “True Lies,” where he plays a spy, that it showed data centers and big libraries of data that were all stored on tape.

Though the hard drive was invented in Silicon Valley in the 1950s, twenty years later, companies were creating hard drive-based storage systems that were more cost effective, he said. Mind you, it wasn’t cheaper than tape — nothing has reached its low cost — but it was the cost to the data center and the multiple components that hard drives dealt with better than tape that propelled it to higher adoption.

SSD prices per gigabyte have steadily fallen since 2013, from about $2.00 to 69 cents, according to data from IDC. (see graphics)

WW Hybrid Array Revenue via IDC

WW Hybrid Array Revenue via IDC

WW Flash Array Revenue

WW Flash Array Revenue via IDC

Eric Burgener, research director of storage at IDC, was kind enough to put together some data for me on this. Here is what he told me via email:

“The flash-based array market, which includes All Flash Arrays (those arrays that can ONLY use flash storage to meet performance and capacity requirements) and Hybrid Flash Arrays (those arrays that can use a mix of flash storage and HDD to meet performance and capacity requirements), is growing because:

  • “Virtual infrastructure (and the new application workloads that are associated with it) require storage performance that HDDs cannot cost effectively meet;
  • “The new application workloads are driven by mobile computing, social media, big data/analytics and cloud computing;
  • “Flash enables the use of critical storage efficiency technologies like in-line compression and deduplication without noticeable performance penalties (at the application level) in primary storage environments, giving a major boost to enterprises that are struggling with managing data growth (which is everybody); and
  • “Data is expected to continue to grow at a 44% CAGR (compound annual growth rate) over the next five years, so the ‘managing growth’ problem will not let up anytime soon.”

The lower price for SSD and better performance in cases than HDD are some of the reasons that flash is getting its day in the sun, a la the hard drive 30 years ago, Herzog said.

SSD vs. HDD Average $/GB

SSD vs. HDD Average $/GB via IDC

As a result, over the next 18 months, he envisions more robust enterprise networks; a generic shift away from hard drive to flash; and faster and higher capacity-based systems.

Photo credit: Publicdomainpictures via Pixabay