Hybrid Flash vs. All-Flash Storage: Making The Right Decision

More and more vendors are offering all-flash arrays because demand is increasing and prices are dropping. This change in market landscape is leading several IT managers and professionals to question whether they should make the switch.

The question here is if the increasingly-popular all-flash arrays are better than hybrid arrays, and the answer does not always depend on how much flash you need, but whether you need to rely on disk anymore at all.

A Little Flash Background

Typically speaking, most IT teams compare price/performance when choosing between different systems.

Flash storage solutions threw a kink in this way of doing things because they created an atmosphere where IT managers had to choose whether they wanted better performance or a cheaper price tag.

Flash storage was much more expensive than hard disk drives (HDD), but was way faster, winning in $/IOPS easily. HDD, while slower, was much more economical so it won out in $/GB.

Seeing a problem with this stalemate, vendors hopped on creating new solutions. Enter the hybrid flash array.

Hybrid Flash Arrays: The Pros and Cons

Hybrid arrays were designed to increase IOPS and decrease read latency by mixing flash with disk. Having one foot in both worlds, so to speak, hybrid arrays can double IOPS and reduce latency from over 10 ms to as little as 3 ms in some cases.

Although a definite improvement on pure HDDs, these reported numbers vary for hybrid solutions, making many IT managers that need/want exact numbers weary. But with the price of all-flash so much higher than hybrid, it was still a tougher decision between the two.

Now, the price margin is narrowing – but flash can still eat up a budget quickly.

Hybrid Flash Pros:

1. More economical ($/GB)

2. Highly-suitable for low transaction environments

3. Suitable in scenarios where capacity is a primary concern:

  • File storage
  • Backup
  • Recovery

4. Can be seen as the best of both worlds

  • Higher performance than an all-disk solution, but cheaper than all-flash

Hybrid Flash Cons:

1. Lower performance than all-flash

  • However, depending on your needs, hybrid storage may suffice, with many modern solutions offering into the hundreds of thousands of IOPS.

2. In some cases, applications compete for the flash tier of storage, which can lead to overcrowded flash and reduced performance for your apps.

3. Archaic architectures mean that support from many vendors is lacking.

All-Flash Arrays: The Pros and Cons

If you feel the need for speed, an all-flash array may be what you’re after.

This type of array is excellent if one of your main concerns is performance. Because data is stored on solid state disks, this type of solution can provide hundreds or thousands of IOPS – and more.

Although at this time, all-flash still can’t match hybrid flash on capacity needs, vendors are constantly taking these differences into consideration and making changes to future series. As of now, many vendors are including features like dedupe and compression, which all-flash relies on, in their solutions. This was not always the case.

All-flash is still more expensive when you’re looking at raw numbers, but $/IOPS is where this type of solution really shines and where it tends to persuade IT managers with performance on the brain.

All-Flash Pros:

1. Fast, optimal performance

2. Suitable for heavy I/O needs

3. Lower operational costs

  • Takes up less space
  • Uses less power

4. High utilization without performance degradation (90% on a fully-populated rack)

5. Suitable for high transaction workloads

6. Innate, fast management interface

All-Flash Cons:

1. High $/GB

2. High purchase price

3. Needs protection by RAID

  • Could add to capacity, overhead price

4. Will not measure up to capacity needs met by hybrid storage solutions.

  • At full capacity, performance can worsen.
  • 5. Many solutions based on dual controller architecture, which can lead to bottlenecks.

6. Often dependent on dedupe and compression

  • Use of resources
  • NOTE: Many vendors are now accounting for this and are including these reduction strategies in their solution, but keep a look out.

One, The Other or Both?

Ultimately, the decision lies with you and your IT team. Only you really know your current storage atmosphere, what to expect in the future, your needs and goals, and your budget.

There really isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution here – as is usually the case with IT. To narrow down your options to the perfect match for your company:

1. Define your current storage challenges.

2. Figure out specific workloads (current and future).

3. Define your primary concerns

  • Performance?
  • Capacity?
  • Both?
  • Cost?

4. Consider that you may need different solutions for different workloads, and run with it.

For example, any file sharing workloads may rely solely on capacity while data analytics would rely on performance and others would rely on both.

You may end up finding that solely all-flash or solely-disk won’t suffice, so you go with a hybrid solution. Or, you may find that all of your workloads rely on performance and you’re willing to shell out some extra cash for only all-flash storage.

Really, it boils down to finding the perfect marriage between your driving concerns and your budget, but no matter how complicated your needs, there will be solution for you.

In today’s marketplace, many vendors offer multiple solutions, from all-disk all the way up to all-flash, and the options are so flexible that many of the cons mentioned above are being accounted for with each new series.

Find the Right Storage Solution for Your Company: CTC Technologies, Inc. Can Help!

If you’ve decided which flash solution is the best fit for your company, our team would be happy to help you with the next phase: choosing a vendor and making the switch.

We can also help you choose between hybrid and all-flash storage if you are still undecided. Through our trusted partnerships, we have helped several companies migrate to a new storage solution that fits their workload, budget, and capacity and performance needs.

If you’d like to move forward or just have some questions we haven’t answered here, please get in touch with us. Need a faster response? Give us a call at 734.408.1993.

We Have The Proof

We Solve Complex IT and Networking Problems.

Contact Us Today