What are all-flash data centres?
Data centres are buildings used to store computing systems, telecommunications and companies’ specific data or information. Many organisations have them and they play a vital role in the day-to-day operations of a business. However, there is another type of data centre called an all-flash data centre or All-Flash Array (AFA), which is different from Hybrid-Storage and Hard Disk Drive centres. We look at why this is the case.
What is an all-flash data centre or All-Flash Array (AFA)?
Much like ordinary data centres, an all-flash data centre or All-Flash Array (AFA) is a storage infrastructure, but instead of using spinning-disk drives, it contains flash memory drives. AFAs are designed to offer speed, performance and agility for business applications.
All-flash storage is referred to as Solid-State Array (SSA), and AFAs themselves have faster access times and memory read-write capabilities, increasing overall speed and performance. The best All-Flash Arrays can also leverage NVMe over Fabrics (NVMe-oF), which allows them to maximise the speed at which it can transfer data and latencies throughout a Storage Area Network (SAN).
Other benefits of an All-Flash Array (AFA)
As well as speed, all-flash data centres use Solid-State Drives (SSDs) rather than Hard Disk Drives (HDDs). Solid-State Drives are smaller than hard disks, making them more portable, and flash memory has the advantage of space-per-capacity. It is also an improvement over HDD solutions on a cost-per-capacity basis.
Durability is another area where AFAs shine compared to HDDs and Hybrid-Storage. Due to there not being any physical moving parts, Solid-State Drives used in All-Flash Arrays are less likely to be damaged drops and shocks than spinning disks.
AFA, Hybrid-Storage, or HDD?
One of the biggest decisions faced by businesses when setting up a data centre is which type to go for. Is it better to go for an All-Flash Array, a Hybrid Storage Array or a conventional Hard Disk Drive? As well as speed, performance, and durability mentioned above, security, maintenance and how easy they are to implement or adopt are also note-worthy considerations.
For the most part, All-Flash Arrays are the fastest and best-performing solution of the three. In second place is the Hybrid-Storage Array, which uses a combination of All-Flash and HDD within the same storage, and lastly, while they may be the slowest, HDDs can be used to add capacity to your data centre storage when neither performance nor speed is a primary factor.
Use cases for All-Flash Array data centres
All-Flash Arrays have long been accepted as the premium Storage Area Network (SAN) for Tier 0 and Tier 1 applications due to the higher cost of Solid Disk Drives and Hard Disk Drives. But Moore’s Law means that All-Flash Arrays are becoming increasingly cost-efficient, allowing for higher storage tiers to be unlocked. Below are some example use cases of the All-Flash Array in use.
Tier 0: This is the tier with the highest level of performance. It covers block storage solutions for financial transactions and e-commerce apps, including any other applications with premium performance.
Tier 1: The second-highest performing tier, Tier 1 covers business processing, data mining, and data analysis.
Tier 2: This is the lowest tier and focused on capacity, it covers email, file and print, data archives, and backups.
All-Flash Arrays are evidently revolutionising data centre storage, offering cloud-like application consolidation and enhanced agility. As for whether or not they are a better storage solution than the traditional Hard Disk Drive Array or Hybrid Arrays is a decision that remains in a business’s hands.
Schneider Electric reveals new IT Innovation report
Schneider Electric has released a new IT innovations report titled “Digital Economy and Climate Impact”, with the aim of gaining an understanding of how digitised and smart applications will be powered in the future. The company says that the report predicts that IT sector-related electricity demand is expected to increase by almost 50% by 2030.
Despite this, the report also shows that emissions would not increase by more than 26% by the same year, following the decarbonisation of the electricity system. In an attempt to reduce this rise in emissions the Schneider Electric TM Sustainability Research Institute recommends continued efforts in achieving efficiencies on the IT and energy sides at both the component and system levels.
The report highlights how the rise of edge computing technologies require a “specific focus” due to these systems being less efficient than hyperscale data centres. “When the world locked down, it also logged on and internet traffic soared,” said Pankaj Sharma, EVP, Secure Power, Schneider Electric.
“It’s misleading to assume that digital activity will inevitably result in a deeply problematic increase in CO2 emissions. The analysis from the Schneider Electric Sustainability Institute puts to rest many of the worst-case scenario claims predicting IT-related electricity use will double every five years. That said, as an industry, we must remain vigilant in finding new sources of sustainability gains while ensuring resiliency as digital keeps life moving forward”, he added.
As well as the release of the report, Schneider Electric also announced several updates to its EcoStruxure IT data center infrastructure management software, Galaxy VL 3-phase uninterruptable power supply (UPS), introducing an industry-leading single-phase UPS, the APC™ Smart-UPS™ Ultra. All introductions are designed to advance the industry forward in meeting sustainability goals while increasing the resiliency of IT and data centre infrastructure, the company said.
Managing hybrid data center and edge IT environments
Also showcased in Schneider Electric’s report are the increasing demands on digital consumption. According to the company, these create a more complex hybrid environment inclusive of enterprise, cloud, and edge data centres. Addressing the unique management challenges of a hybrid IT environment, Schneider Electric has announced updates to its EcoStruxure IT software to increase efficiency and resiliency, including:
- Increased remote management capabilities: New granular remote device configuration features enable users to change configurations on one or more devices – including the new Galaxy VL and APC Smart-UPS Ultra single-phase UPS units – from one centralised platform with EcoStruxure IT Expert. This update, combined with previously released software insights on device security health, enables the user to identify faulty devices or configurations and address them in a matter of clicks, keeping their hybrid IT environment secure.
- Improved environmental monitoring: Environmental monitoring systems ensure users have eyes and ears on data centre and IT deployments from anywhere, anytime. With this update, users can push mass configurations remotely for NetBotz cameras 750 and 755 quickly and efficiently increasing security across the critical infrastructure.
- Enhanced remote capacity modeling and planning: With EcoStruxure IT Advisor’s new capabilities, users can remotely compare an unlimited number of racks and easily identify available capacity, view what assets are deployed and their dependencies.
Sharma concluded: “Schneider Electric has been focused on sustainability for the past 15 years and was recently named the most sustainable corporation in the world. We have embraced the mindset that future innovation will deliver better efficiency across the broader connectivity landscape. By making smart intentional choices, our industry can help mitigate how much electricity and emissions result from the rising appetite for digital technologies”.