IBM bets the server farm on flash

You may have seen the news that IBM has decided all enterprise Tier 1 storage should be flash-based and is putting in place plans to make the transition as fast as possible. Big Blue will be investing $1 million to integrate flash into all of its servers and storage systems and is introducing its own flash-only appliance.

Why the sudden move? Data centers increasingly demand the ability to process information more quickly, but traditional hard drives have only shown a small increase in speed over the last few years. IBM claims that flash solutions can speed up processing by around 90 percent for banking and trading applications. Other benefits include lower energy consumption, less maintenance and a smaller footprint.

Demand for ever larger amounts of cloud storage is helping drive the change too. Speaking at last month's IBM Edge conference in Las Vegas, Tom Rosamilia, senior vice president, IBM Systems and Technology Group said, "Cloud computing and Big Data analytics are playing key roles in helping organizations lower operating expenses, improve efficiencies, and increase productivity."

Market research company IHS agrees with IBM's predictions. It says that flash based storage is challenging the hard disk drive in all markets, not just the enterprise. SSD vendors had record-high profits in 2012, and not only because of inclusion in many data centers. The makers are also gaining popularity in the PC market. In 2017, IHS predicted that SSDs will account for just over 33 percent of all data storage shipments; an increase of 700 percent from current levels.

We've already seen the collaboration of IBM and Seagate to release the fastest enterprise hard drive in hybrid format and it's likely to be the first of many.

For those who don't need instant access to data the electro-mechanical hard drive still has a price advantage. For this reason it should continue to dominate areas like archive and backup storage where performance is less important. When the giants of the corporate IT world like IBM start to take flash storage seriously though you'd be foolish to bet against the trend.

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