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A modern data platform - how organizations will benefit

Patrick Smith Profile picture for user Patrick Smith December 20, 2023
Summary:
Data is a key component of every business. Patrick Smith makes the case for modernization, and breaks down the main factors that decision makers should consider.

Cloud computing technology and online data storage for global data sharing © NanoStockk - Canva.com
( © NanoStockk - Canva.com)

In the first of this two-part series we looked at the all-flash data center and the evolving needs of business in a digital world. What emerged is the need for organizations to be able to react rapidly to new business requirements, meeting performance needs for different workloads, and the simplicity brought by a single operating environment.

In this second article we drill down into some other key components of a modern data storage platform. These include: why the all-flash data center is a reality; why cloud is not always the answer, but why hybrid cloud is key; as well as new ways of consuming infrastructure that bring the convenience and flexibility of the cloud model to any location. Finally, we look at how flash, cloud operating models and flexible consumption come together to bring sustainability benefits to data storage.

Why all-flash has arrived

As mentioned in part one, the all-flash data center is here to stay, this is for multiple reasons including cost parity between flash and disk, performance and cost options to meet the need of every workload, and an overall lower total cost of ownership that factors in energy costs, operational overhead and datacenter footprint.

But, not all flash is created equal. There are several crucial elements to creating the best and most impactful flash storage.

Most storage vendors build their products from commodity components, whether they use solid state drives (SSDs) or mechanical hard disk drives (HDDs).

Innovators who take the decision to build their own hardware platforms can optimize both the hardware and software to deliver superior solutions to their customers; in the case of storage, moving away from commodity SSDs or HDDs means higher capacities, more efficiency and lower per-GB cost. Pure Storage’s DirectFlash Modules are built to enable Purity software to manage flash directly; through this innovation Pure Storage is now shipping 75TB modules with plans for capacity to increase to 300TB in the next few years.

So how does this happen? Key to the ability to build DirectFlash modules of such high capacity is that they are designed to operate at scale where all of the flash is managed by software at a system level unlike SSDs which appear as silos of capacity - leading to inefficiency. This approach delivers significant benefits when it comes to media management including mapping data to physical media, garbage collection and wear levelling.

By contrast, commodity SSDs do media management at an individual drive level. That means more dedicated hardware – including costly DRAM – on the drive to handle it, which creates hugely wasteful duplication of functions, reduces per-drive utilization and increases cost.

Compare that to DirectFlash modules with storage density two to three times better than competitors drives and consuming up to 55% fewer watts per TB.  These advantages add up to the all-flash data center as an irresistible argument.

Flash module capacities of 75TB and beyond will allow storage arrays to scale to petabytes in a few rack units, and support workloads that go deep into secondary use case territory, such as backups, data warehouses and data lakes, archive and mass hyperscaler storage.

Meanwhile, much-reduced power, space and headcount needs bring significant total cost of ownership benefits to the business.

Public cloud is not necessarily the answer, the rise of the hybrid cloud is

The cloud is now ubiquitous, its adoption has been massive and its influence on the IT landscape significant. The pandemic and digital transformation have boosted cloud use even more than in previous years.  Organizations now expect to use the cloud in some form for its flexibility, scalability, agility, and innovation.

But the market seems to have reached the point of peak acceleration to the cloud. Where organizations once imagined 100% of their IT running in the public cloud we’re seeing a change. As organizations have progressed on their public cloud journey there’s a realization that some of the capabilities of the cloud come at a cost.  Perhaps the rush to adopt the public cloud has meant moving workloads that aren’t ideally suited to it meaning that costs are higher than expected. Those who have adopted cloud native architectures or make use of higher-level services, such as PaaS or SaaS offerings, maximize the value they get.

Many companies are looking at cost optimizations, looking to use the public cloud more efficiently, or in some cases looking at repatriation, where organizations that rushed to put workloads in the cloud brought them back in-house. The typical endgame is the hybrid cloud, where workloads are hosted across a range of environments according to their requirements and characteristics. 

In other words, “cloud best” has triumphed over “cloud first”. But that doesn’t mean organizations have to forego all of the benefits of the public cloud. It’s increasingly possible to have many of the capabilities of the public cloud but on-premises or in a co-lo. These private cloud capabilities include agility, simplicity, self-service, automation and on-demand scalability with a cloud operating model that spans the private and public cloud locations they use. 

Businesses are now settling on a target that provides a portfolio of hosting environments that can optimally support their broad business and application landscape. That end-state is a hybrid cloud model that delivers cloud-like benefits regardless of the location. This flexibility is made possible with technologies that span public and private clouds from both a technical and operational perspective.

Storage-as-code – seamless across the hybrid cloud

A key aspect of effective hybrid cloud operations is the ability to automate deployment and management of applications and the services they consume. The answer to implementing this lies in infrastructure-as-code, where developers can draw on a rich set of APIs to trigger the services they need across public and private cloud environments, whether that is compute, storage, data protection or data services.

With data being such a key component of so many business services, organizations should look for a control plane that manages storage across the hybrid cloud; allowing administration of the storage infrastructure at a fleet level, driven by policy, enabling tasks such as workload placement, mobility, and rebalancing. In this model a self-service capability is key either through code or UI, enabling developers or application owners to consume the storage services they need, quickly and easily.

Another element to consider is the impact of containers on modern application architectures that are cloud agnostic. Applications that are containerized allow for greater development agility as well as freedom in terms of portability whereby they can be run across a hybrid cloud. A data platform for Kubernetes delivers container granular storage management, data protection, disaster recovery and data services deployment and management across the hybrid cloud. By looking at cloud native options, organizations can leverage all the best capabilities of the hybrid cloud, no matter where the applications run.

Bringing it all together with flexible consumption

Adoption of public cloud services means that customers are used to consuming services based on pay as you go consumption models.

This subscription approach is now proving popular where the service can span on-premises infrastructure as well as the public cloud.  Benefits of this include the ability to avoid trying to guess future capacity requirements, avoiding over-buying capacity, but meet the changing demands of the business without a fire-drill. A comprehensive set of service level agreements backs up a subscription model and, for storage, should include aspects such as performance, reliability, committed headroom and other aspects guaranteeing the manageability of the environment.

This all blurs the service availability between on-premises, co-lo and public cloud as organizations look to deliver true hybrid cloud capabilities.

The sustainability boost

It’s now essential that organizations consider the carbon impact of all their business activities. This is often a board level focus and it’s leading to energy efficiency being a selection criterion for technology purchases. Therefore it’s vital to look for a vendor whose technology provides real energy reduction. This helps customers support their sustainability targets while at the same time lowering their energy costs which contributes to a lower total cost of ownership.

One customer that benefitted from Pure Storage’s ability to shrink their storage footprint and energy usage was Virgin Media O2 in the UK, one of the country’s largest telcos and a provider of data-hungry 5G services. It replaced legacy storage hardware and gained a 96% reduction in electricity usage and shrunk 42 racks down to three for 4PB of data. Those kinds of benefits will help with Virgin Media O2’s aim to be carbon zero by 2040.

Benefits of a modern data platform

A modern data platform should meet the broad set of capabilities that organizations need to support their business. Today that means delivering storage capabilities that can be consumed across a hybrid cloud, typically in a cloud-like manner, through an SLA-backed subscription where services are presented through self-service or as-code interfaces.  All this while supporting the full range of application requirements across bare-metal, virtual or containerized; effortlessly.

To provide operational benefits of simplicity, efficiency and a minimal data center impact flash is proving its value, not just for high performance requirements but for all storage needs including those typically addressed by HDD’s. All of this can be achieved while making a sizable contribution to sustainability goals, reducing e-waste, and the data center churn associated with the obsolescence built into legacy storage technologies that encourage rip-and-replace.

A modern data platform has the power to enable every business with its data needs, not hold it back.

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