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Economic Insight: Flash Economics – Separating Purchase of Controllers from Flash Devices

Published August 8th, 2016. Randy Kerns, Sr. Strategist with Evaluator Group, provides insight on the economic decisions behind purchasing flash devices.

There are new factors introduced into making decisions about storage with the advent of flash technology that have profound effects on the economics. No longer is there a very simple answer for retaining storage with the cost amortized over a relatively short period of time. Changes in technology and specific vendor programs influence decisions about storage based on the economics. One of the most far-reaching effects is the difference in the longevity of the technology for solid-state storage, specifically flash storage in this case. There are now major considerations about replacement of storage, acquisition of additional capacity, and updating of technology.

The controllers used for storage are primarily based on Intel processors with a defined cadence of technology updating. Flash storage has a technology longevity that is far greater than the change rate for the controller technology. This is not to imply that controllers with their Intel processor technology are no longer serviceable after a defined period. There are advantages to move to new controller technology that has benefited from the research and development investments, which have delivered new processors and controllers with greater performance and functional capabilities. Independent of the new controller introduction, the flash storage with its longer lifespan is still reliable with high performance across multiple generations of controllers. Economic benefits also come from the change in migration of data due to the longer lifespan.

The changes in technology have created an economic justification to disaggregate the storage controllers from the flash storage, usually devices in enclosures. Disaggregation allows the economic benefits of longer lifespan devices to be realized and opens the opportunity for increased performance and functionality with a refresh of controllers. Additional economic benefits come from not having to migrate or move data as frequently and from enabling acquisition of new capacity when needed to capitalize on the ongoing price declines for flash storage.

The proof of the economic value of separating storage controllers from flash storage devices in acquisition and updating is in economics. This has been demonstrated in an interactive economic model developed by Evaluator Group as part of the Evaluator Interactive Economic Models on evaluatorgroup.com that shows the general case comparing against traditional storage replacement practices. Additional vendor defined programs and system characteristics could be modeled to obtain specific solution economics.


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