Nov 24 2014

Agencies Rely on Flash Arrays to Support Mission-Critical Apps

IT managers need flash storage to support mission-critical applications such as virtual desktops, SQL databases and email.

The General Services Administration taps flash storage to speed performance of myView, the agency’s virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) platform.

CIO Sonny Hashmi says myView supports 4,080 virtual desktops and can deliver them to staff wherever they’re working and regardless of the device they’re using. “Flash memory storage is the only technology that supports our VDI and enables low latency and fast throughput for applications that demand exceptionally fast performance,” he says.

For example, Hashmi says GSA employees may be 3,000 miles away from the data center, yet they still want to see their mouse move on their virtual desktop as fast as it does on their real desktop back at the office.

The GSA built high performance into its VDI requirements and sought storage arrays that could provide the most input/output operations per second for the right footprint, price and the speed necessary to support VDI as the primary desktop.

Flash storage provides very fast access to users and also gives them the ability to create and share content quickly,” Hashmi says. “The outcome is that the myView program provides our users with an improved user experience to enhance our mobility program within a small footprint.”


The percentage of IT managers who currently use flash in their external storage environment

SOURCE: IDC, “Storage Purchasing Intentions Survey,” July 2014

The data centers house a mix of flash and spinning disks, and the GSA IT staff decide when to use to flash based on an application’s criticality, latency and performance needs. While the myView program uses flash storage, it relies on spinning disks for data stored on network shares. Hashmi says the flash arrays also offer easy-to-use administrative tools out of the box; include most of the necessary licensing; and use some internal, automated tiering technology.

Eric Burgener, research director for IDC’s storage practice, says that while hybrid arrays remain popular with many organizations, ultimately all-flash units will replace the hybrid products currently offered by manufacturers. Recent IDC research shows that 18 percent of organizations already use all-flash arrays, while 23 percent use hybrid arrays. Another 37 percent use existing spinning disks with flash drives added as cache.

“People move slowly when mission-critical applications are at stake. Plus, there’s a comfort level with spinning disks,” says Burgener. “Overall, we expect the transition to all-flash for primary storage environments to take five to seven years.”

DISA Deploys Flash

The Defense Information Systems Agency deployed hybrid arrays that include traditional disks along with additional flash storage for databases, email, enterprise resource planning software and applications that require increased input/outputs per second.

David Bennett, CIO and principal director for enterprise information services, says DISA has reduced its customer response times by half and saved money by reducing the need for maintenance and cooling systems.

Bennett says DISA is in a sensitive phase in the acquisition process for enterprise storage so he couldn’t offer more details, but says the agency continues to evaluate the capabilities of flash arrays, including automated storage tiering that would introduce additional efficiencies and cost savings.


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