The hidden risks in consumer-grade storage components
Those leaning towards flash technology might want to bear in mind that one method for getting list prices into the same ball-park as enterprise HDD and hybrid arrays has been to use consumer-grade components for flash enterprise applications. While this method is technically possible and undoubtedly lowers the initial capital expenditure, it could be seriously undermined in the long term by the operating and downtime costs incurred from using less robust technology. Organisations need to ask themselves whether it’s worth taking the risk.
100 UK IT managers were recently asked if they would knowingly deploy consumer-grade flash and the answer was almost unanimous. The survey conducted by independent research firm Vanson Bourne in 2013, found 99 per cent would not knowingly deploy consumer-grade storage, whether HDDs or flash, for their enterprise applications.
The history of the enterprise storage marketplace is littered with examples of organisations learning the valuable lesson of “using the right tool for the job”. While some have made the error of over-spending on technology, many others have made the mistake of under-spending and adding unnecessary risk. A great example of this is the use of low cost SATA hard disk drives in enterprise environments, the “old-school” variant of using consumer-grade flash in hybrid and all-flash arrays.
Interestingly, while some vendors are being open about the use of consumer grade flash in their products (albeit claiming the use of software in an attempt to offset the risk), they are being deliberately vague about the underlying architectures. The huge risks this presents need to be highlighted more prominently. Organisations need to demand more information and be more careful when making decisions over what grade of storage they are choosing. There is a danger that by cutting costs they will end up cutting corners. Can any business afford to take such risks with its data?
A simple question to ask such vendors is to ask for proof of claim and provide example customers who’ve had installations for a reasonable period of time (2-3 years is a bare minimum) with no issues or the need for service calls.
Organisations need to strike a balance between cost and risk. While using consumer grade hardware may well lower the initial capital expenditure cost of a project, it can significantly impact operational cost. More importantly, it can have a detrimental effect on business availability.
Gavin McLaughlin is solutions development director international at X-IO.
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