When Does Hybrid Storage Make Sense?

I recently met with a cloud provider who had purchased an all-flash array a year ago to provide optimal performance for the companies’ hosting services.  Although the array was as powerful as advertised, he told me he had barely scratched the surface of performance. Now it was time to add another capacity node, and he was staring down a $125K capacity purchase, and faced with question, “is the juice worth the squeeze?”  At that point, I began wondering if a more cost effective hybrid solution we offer might provide all the performance his business needs, which begged the question when does a hybrid storage system make sense?

HDDs are very cost effective for $/GB, and SSDs deliver the advantage of in $/IOP.  Of course, the hybrid approach is to deliver a balance of the two.  All-flash arrays are designed to service applications that require enormous performance at very low latency, but are not so effective when blended with a higher capacity requirement.

So can today’s hybrid systems deliver the best of both worlds?

Some hybrid manufacturers claim they can match the performance of the all-flash market.  For example, Nimble Storage says it, “provides the performance of flash-only arrays and the capacity of hybrid arrays”.  Companies like Nimble and Tegile are targeting not only the enterprise hybrid systems, like EMC’s VNX and Hitachi’s HUS-VM, but also all-flash arrays like XtremIO and Pure.  Nimble said both EMC’s XtremIO and the CS700 provide +500k IOPS and <1ms latency, but Nimble claims its product scales up/out more easily than XtremIO.

So when does a Hybrid SAN make sense?

Not so long ago, I would’ve said when you need sub-millisecond capacity, you need to go all-flash. But today’s hybrid market is catching up, and given the right system can be very cost effective.

For my customers, I think it makes sense more often than not. It’s a natural answer to the now common question of balancing $/GB and $/IOP.  The aforementioned client was able to implement a Hybrid storage solution that did in fact fit the bill.  The client choose the Nimble CS700 because it can cope with the bigger and more diverse workloads he delivers to his customers, with the same level of performance as all-flash at a fraction of the cost.