Higher education faces user demand for ever-better performance of core applications.
GUEST COLUMN | by Jeff Whitney
Flash storage technology has made great inroads into IT in recent years, a trend that is accelerating rather than abating today. And the demands of higher education are at the very forefront of this growing technology change.
A major contributor to the education sector’s storage growth is the increasing competitiveness facing teaching institutions today. Colleges and universities face user demand for ever-better performance of core applications, ranging from booting up individual computer workstations in the morning through to the response time for databases providing student, financial, program, medical, academic, research, and other data for a diverse user community.
And all while managing within budget constraints, facing scrutiny from accreditation agencies and regulators, conforming to new legislation, enduring cost cutting initiatives, and competing for and retaining qualified staff.
Adopting new technologies has always been the way of life for institutions of higher education. To cut costs and support larger, more demanding student bodies, with matching academic and support staff, education sector IT professionals have often turned to virtualized environments like VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure). Many also are contemplating or have already begun the movement of some of their data into private or public clouds for further cost reduction.
As a result, IT professionals in colleges and universities don’t always have the manpower, time, or financial resources, to ensure their systems are always up to the tasks in front of them.
To address these concerns, flash storage technology is increasingly being deployed as a solution to decreasing the access time to critical data while serving it up to key applications reliably and affordably. All Flash Array (AFA) solutions, the most recent wave of solid state flash solutions to reach the storage market, from multiple vendors bring the promise of meeting those goals. AFAs deliver the performance of dedicated server flash, yet offer the shared access of hybrid flash/disk systems, while exceeding their performance.
At the same time, AFAs can be used to replace existing systems that no longer meet the performance demands of serving up data to the servers. The economics of power reduction and reduced cooling of flash over disk, combined with dramatically reduced footprints in the data center, provide a strong return on investment that far exceed the old computation of price per gigabyte.
Alternatively, AFAs can complement the existing storage, offloading critical data and freeing up the disk system to be used for less demanding applications. This can improve ROI further, eliminating more storage purchases, while allowing the existing investment to continue to benefit the organization without disruption.
The majority of All Flash Array solutions offer outstanding performance. For flash, performance is typically measured in IOPS (Input/Output Operations Per Second) and the performance delivered dramatically increases application responsiveness. When a key application needs to deliver improved response time, such as for a Microsoft SQL Server database holding tens of thousands of records, a well-designed deployment of one or more AFAs can improve application speed by up to 10X, without making any other changes or requiring any tuning.
In a VDI environment, major challenges like boot storms (where a group of users all boot up their systems at the same time, resulting in very long delays) and daily operational delays, are largely eliminated by adding that kind of performance into the equation. That is achieved due to the low latency of flash, which makes it ideal for the challenges of a VDI deployment.
The best All Flash Arrays go a step further, with a simple deployment model that allows connection directly into the existing Ethernet fabric (1 or 10GbE), and to be up and running in minutes rather than hours or days. That time savings allows IT to concentrate on their many other day-to-day challenges.
Again, the best solutions can be managed using not just their own tools, but entirely within popular virtualized environments such as VMware using vSphere, eliminating the need to learn a new interface or change operational procedures.
Key built-in features, such as such as hot-swap flash drives, power supplies and fans, plus RAID protection, over-provisioning, and wear leveling technology are found in many All Flash Array solutions. Some of the best also offer compressed, encrypted links for replication between systems to protect student data in distributed or high availability environments without requiring additional hardware.
There you have it. That’s why educational IT continues to move toward flash storage technology. By picking the best solution – easy to deploy, simple to manage, and with a great ROI – educational institutions can ensure that they meet their organization’s needs for today and into the future.