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Hybrid Storage Hits the Sweet Spot as SSDs are No Silver Bullet; Interview with iXsystems CTO Jordan Hubbard, Part III

Some claim that all-flash memory and/or solid state drive (SSD) storage arrays will become the silver bullets that solve all of today’s challenges with enterprise storage arrays. Those closer to the manufacturing of storage arrays have a much different viewpoint as they see a long and healthy life ahead for traditional spinning media. In this third installment in DCIG’s interview series with iXsystem’s CTO Jordan Hubbard, he discusses how hybrid storage arrays hit the sweet spot for the storage needs of most organizations.
Ben: How is iX introducing flash into the storage systems and in what ways is it managing it?
Jordan: We are definitely coming up on an inflection point. We are not quite at the stage yet where pure flash arrays are financially compelling, unless you truly need performance at a level where it is absolutely king in your deployment scenario.
We can certainly build all flash storage solutions, and we do so for those specific scenarios. But, honestly, where we are right now is not yet where we need to be yet in terms of fulfilling NAND’s real potential —wear leveling strategies,  price/performance, reliability, and whatnot are still evolving. SSDs are no silver bullet.
However, what they are is an incredibly good cache at the moment. Hard drive technology is not standing still. They are continuing to evolve, and everyone who predicted the death of spinning media 10 years ago, well, they were spectacularly wrong!   The prices continue to plummet and the capacities and areal densities continue to grow. Perhaps not as fast as in previous years, no, but we still have not seen the limit of what can be done with hard drives.
We are just not going to see the end of spinning rust any time soon. It is actually getting better and better, and more and more reliable.
That makes the hybrid approach the sweet spot right now. If you have lots of spindles, you can distribute your IOPS across them and get really good performance and, more importantly, capacity because that is what SSDs still lack unless you have got an unlimited budget.
You just are not going to build a PB of SSD for anything reasonable in terms of cost.  You can, however, take a PB of hard disk storage and front it with a much smaller amount of SSD storage for the second level cache, and for write transaction logs, and get really good cache level performance to the network without paying the full cost of what an all SSD solution would cost you.

In Part I of this interview series with iXsystems’ CTO Jordan Hubbard, we take a look at some ways in which iX’s value propositions set it apart from its competitors.
In Part II of this interview series, we discuss iXsystems’ ability to consult with their clients and how that practice helps them create more customizable storage appliance and server configurations.
In Part IV of this interview series, we look at how closely iXsystems works with the FreeBSD kernel community and Jordan discusses the split of external developers between hobbyists and enterprise users.
In Part V of this interview series, we discuss Jordan’s views of proprietary versus open source code, and how he views the responsibility of iXsystems to the open source community.
In Part VI of this interview series, we discuss Jordan’s ideas on if the open source community is a meritocracy, and what type of person has the chance to rise above the rest in the field.

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