According to IDC, in Q3 2016 all-flash arrays experienced a growth rate of over 60% compared to the same period of time last year. Revenue from all-flash arrays reached $1.1 billion, which is over 12% of the total enterprise market.
More and more companies are moving from conventional storage systems towards all-flash arrays in order to experience faster data-mobility speeds and more reliable performance. The falling costs have also made all-flash arrays a feasible option for companies who previously couldn’t afford it.
If you decide to move to an all-flash arrays system you’ll have no shortage of vendors to choose from. There are the big names like HPE, NetApp, IBM and Dell as well as some newer entrants to the market, such as Kaminario K2 and Pure Storage.
Each solution offers different features and benefits, which can make choosing the right all-flash array for your business a daunting task.
To help make the process easier for you, we have turned to the IT Central Station community for their advice on how to how to choose an all-flash array, based on their personal experiences.
How to choose an all-flash array
Have a clear understanding of your needs and requirements
Before you begin researching available solutions, IT Central Station users say that it’s important to get a clear understanding of what your company’s needs and requirements are.
Bret Bagley, Infrastructure Manager at Pennwell Cor
“My recommendation to my peers is that they know for sure what their performance needs are; that they size it properly to support those needs.”
LeadStorageEng125, System Engineer at a financial services firm
“Decide your current and future requirements in terms of performance, capacity scaling, application (SQL/Oracle/SharePoint/Exchange/SAP) integration, storage efficiency (dedupe/compression), operational overhead, etc., and decide on a vendor based on it. No vendor is perfect in every aspect, so chose the vendor based on your requirements and test them!!!”
SrSystemsEng639, Senior Systems Engineer at a legal firm
To pick a solution, we generally create a matrix and then fill in what we want out of the product. We pump in vendors and choose whoever meets the targets that we set. I would also advise that users follow best practices with the 3PAR.
Thoroughly research all potential solutions
Before investing in any new hardware or software, IT professionals stress how important it is to fully research all of your options. You no longer have to rely on a salesperson to provide you with information about their product. Instead search the internet, read user reviews, talk to people who have used the product and try it out yourself.
Trevor Jackson, Director, IT Infrastructure & Architecture at SOCAN
“What I recommend to other people looking at all flash solutions, I would take a look at not only the company that's selling it, but the background of the technology itself. There have been a lot of flash startups, a lot of flash startups being purchased by big name companies like Cisco, EMC, etc. So don't let the big name fool you. Do your homework. Make sure you ask the right questions, and look at the history of the product. Talk to some of the customers and get their feedback and see how they're doing with the solution.
I would say peer reviewers are very important. You know, sales people being sales people that are trying to sell you their product, that's their job. But when you want to talk to the customers and get feedback from the people that are actually using it, the people that spend their hard earned dollars, that are actually supporting the product, I think that is very valuable in itself, and it's very important to me.
I normally go about finding info by networking, talking to some of my peers; when I do deal with salespeople, I ask them for references. They obviously give you curated references, but, you know, ask the right questions and ensure that the people they're talking to are generally being honest, and they generally are. They don't want to mislead you, so it's good to have that relationship beforehand, and even afterward, reaching out to speak to people.”
Jeremy Zuniga, Enterprise Architect at Alliance Resource Partners:
“I think peer reviewers are priceless. Realistically, you can get all the marketing hype, but at the end of the day, seeing how somebody has either pushed the boundaries on a product, looked at the product, and used it in ways that a development team could never- or a product team could never actually envision, and see it either live or die, you know, how it performed, those are the things that you get out of community and from peer reviews, that you're not necessarily going to get from your traditional marketing.”
James Lethbridge, Network Engineer at a healthcare company:
“Scope your needs properly and buy the right model. Leverage your pre-sales team for help.”
Rob Stickland, Senior Server Network Engineer at a healthcare company
“If you can get a bake off, do that. Try to get the same type of test across the board. Put it through its paces. Definitely get your solutions engineers involved; almost pit them against each other. Ask a lot of questions, and really find out what the requirements are. Get them in there and try them out. You lose nothing, except a little bit of time. If you can spend better money the first time out, you look better as an engineer and a person that can influence purchasing.”
Lou Jenkins Consulting Storage Engineer at Columbia HCA Healthcare
“Make sure you truly test the possible solutions one-on-one against each other and not just let the vendor tell you the answer. A lot of times, their answer is dependent on the criteria that they use to give it.”
RESC, Storage Solutions Architect IV at a manufacturing company
“Learn about the product and its capabilities. If you are unsure whether this will handle your workload, my suggestion is to get a proof-of-concept with your preferred value added reseller. Move some workload to it and test the performance. There is nothing worse than buying a unit that won’t perform as you expect it.”
Matthew Bradley, Director at a tech consulting company
“Watch the YouTube videos first, they're very good. If you understand what's being said, buy it.”
GeneThomas, Vice President at a healthcare company
“Spend time with the engineering staff to understand current and future offerings.”
Make sure that you have a good relationship with the vendor
According to our users, ensuring that you work well with the vendor is important because you will be using their product for a long time to come. You want to make sure that you communicate well with them and that they will be available to provide you with the support that you need.
Heinz Adam, Connect Germany at Westfälische Wilhelms-University
“You have to have good partners with whom you can work and with whom you can speak. It only becomes apparent over the course of a project how well of a partner you chose. If you have a product where you spent several million Euros, there's nothing that will work on the first instance. There's not anything that will work, but there are some things that won't work on the first instance. Then every partner shines. You have to ask how they get these problems resolved.”
Paul Sabin, Senior Network and Infrastructure Manager at a legal firm
“One of the top criteria, for us, is the relationship that you have with the vendor because everybody hopes that things are going to go right, but the real question is when things don't go right, is your team going to stand beside you? I have worked with the sales team and have said, "Hey guys! Is this pillow talk or is this an after-the-sale conversation? Are you still going to stand by me?" This is me, the customer, talking to the vendor.
For us, it's the vendor relationship, product reliability, and then, probably, the price-point while selecting a vendor.”
DataStor81f8, Data Storage Administrator at a manufacturing company
“When selecting a vendor to work with, the most important factor for me is the relationship. We've had a great relationship with our sales managers and sales reps and we saw them at a recent conference. That's a key thing. You get the support you need. If something happens, they're on top of it, fixing it right away. Good service is the most important factor.”
Consider the product’s scalability and ease of use
For many companies, a key factor when choosing an all-flash array solution is how easy it is to use and how well it can be adjusted for a company’s growth and changing needs.
Mts2a96b, System Administrator for a retailer
“The most important criteria for me when selecting a product are that it is highly available, scalable, and easy to use. It should be able to work in our environment, basically; in a mixed-workload environment.”
SystemAd187b, System Admin at an insurance company
“Manageability is an important criterion while selecting a vendor. Also, for system administrators like myself, it is important to be able to understand the solution right off the bat.”
Mahad Mohamed, System Administrator ll at Calabrio
“When selecting a vendor, I look for security. We want something that can be integrated and is compatible with our environment.”
How important is pricing?
Will the price of an all-flash array be a deciding factor for you or are there other features that are more important to you than cost? This is a crucial question to ask yourself when deciding on a solution.
Jordan Gaston, Storage Engineer at Syniverse
“The most important criteria while selecting a vendor are the cost and support.”
Jeremy Zuniga, Enterprise Architect at Alliance Resource Partners,
“Don't be afraid of the price tag...If you're willing to really set out a roadmap and know the investment and what you're able to give back to the business.”
Consultid025, Consulting Manager
“We needed a new solution. We were working with a partner and they showed us options. We discussed price and we got the point between stability, reliability, and price. These were the main factors in choosing this solution.
The trends in storage solutions have been going through a lot of changes. They are not as centered on basic storage. They are moving to local and multiple nodes of storage. These storage-defined solutions have been evolving a lot over these last couple of years. It will be a harder decision to choose between one or another vendor.”
Don’t discount the smaller players
You might be tempted to go with a big-name vendor because you are familiar with them and they have a solid reputation, but our users suggest that a newer, smaller vendor, might actually have the best product for your needs. So keep an open mind.
Alexander Vierschrodt, Head Of Commercial Management Servers at a tech services company
“When my company selects a vendor, the reputation is not a key factor for us. That's why we looked at SolidFire. For us, it was very interesting to work with a small provider. We always try to get some leverage there; that we can influence the development. That's why we focus, in the evaluation also, on small vendors. Of course, we looked at different providers, like Pure Storage, Nimble and so on, but in the end, SolidFire delivered the perfect package for us.
After NetApp acquired SolidFire, we were a little afraid that it wouldn't work out, because we all have seen acquisitions that went totally wrong. As soon as we got the word that they were acquired, we immediately started looking at other vendors. But, at the moment, we're still really happy with them and it seems that the combination really works out. What happens with NetApp is, now that we're looking at the rest of the NetApp portfolio, because the integration of SolidFire seems to work quite good, the other products get more interesting for us as well.”
DevOps16898, Senior DevOps Engineer at a Software R&D Company
“When I decide to work with a vendor like Kaminario, I look for, honestly, cost effectiveness. I like the most bang for our buck. I definitely look at performance metrics. I'm not so much interested in whether they're a big power player like EMC or Dell or anything like that. To me, the truth is in the numbers.”
To learn more about what IT Central Station users have to say about their all-flash arrays read their user reviews here.