If you manage servers and storage you can plan on having storage-related performance problems. Some problems are easily recognized, such as when end users complain about response times and others just become part of the daily and weekly grind, such as when database reports take several hours to run. Regardless, as the bottom layer of the infrastructure stack, when old storage slows down, problems usually follow. So, if unspent money is available at the end of the annual budget cycle – especially “use it or lose it” money – the odds are very good that spending it on high-performance flash storage will generate excellent results before long.
But what flash arrays should you buy if you don’t have the details you need such as workload, capacity and IOPS requirements? Obviously, you want a flexible product that can be used for the broadest set of applications and the storage protocols that support them. A flash storage array that supports Fibre Channel, iSCSI, NFS and SMB allows you to apply flash performance to any applications that start running out of gas.
A tougher question to answer is whether to buy a hybrid array with both flash and spinning disks or an All-Flash array. The amount of money available could decide that as hybrid arrays are less expensive than All-Flash arrays. There are a lot of IOPS available in hybrid flash systems and there are many scenarios where upgrading a disk-based array to a hybrid array will generate transformational results. What you might not know, is that some All-flash arrays can be converted into hybrid arrays by upgrading them with higher capacity disk shelves. With that in mind, you could purchase a smaller All-Flash array and then use it as-is or upgrade it when it is needed with either additional All-Flash shelves or hybrid disk shelves. That way you can spend a smaller amount of money next year to get the cost/performance ratio that fits your requirements.
Finally, how much capacity should you buy? Again, this will be dictated by the amount of funds that are available, but in general, it probably makes the most sense to buy a smaller amount of capacity today but to buy a system with the largest potential for capacity expansion. As the cost of capacity tends to decrease every year, there is no point in buying capacity that you aren’t going to use right away. That said, having more expansion capacity allows the array to be used to solve a broader set of potential problems.