Mobility’s Revolutionary Effect on Storage

The rise of mobility is sparking a paradigm shift in storage.

The pervasiveness and growth of mobile is a true game-changer. Recent reports indicate the percentage of people with a mobile phone stands at almost 60 percent worldwide. Given the world’s population of 7 billion people, that’s an enormous number of individuals requesting and sharing information in real time. Smart devices offer hundreds of thousands of apps and features that go far beyond voice and text with imaging, location and tracking—most of which produce and consume data within the cloud.

The spread of mobile devices is revolutionizing storage both in terms of hardware and the cloud. In this revolution, the most important feature of enterprise storage will be performance—supported best by flash memory.

Of the data out there, mobile produces and consumes a significant portion. YouTube on mobile devices receives more than 400 million views each day, representing 13 percent of the video Website’s total daily traffic. Other heavy data-usage features of smartphones include full HD video capture, photography, and work-related apps.

In light of all that, “Big Data” seems an appropriate term for analyzing the vast data stores in public and private clouds. The following outcomes have evolved to handle such an enormous task:

Aggregated NAND Flash

There is little room (or power) in pocket-sized devices for a hard drive that can support gigabytes (GBs) of storage, so a new storage technology has been developed and mass-produced for the digital camera and mobile phone industry. Known as NAND flash chips, these inventions are small in size (about a half inch by a half inch) with modest power requirements, and allow mobile devices to store up to 64 GBs of data locally. If you used that space for digital voice recording, you could store a continuous recording 1.8 years in duration.

Cloud Backup

With all of that local storage capability, backups are important. Cloud storage services such as iCloud and Google sync services keep a cloud-based copy of all of that data. Third party apps also leverage cloud storage as a hub, providing a seamless way to sync multiple devices and computers. As the amount of data increases and mobile processors and networks get faster, the performance of storage will become the largest factor in successfully running mobile apps in real time.

Faster Network Infrastructure

Rovio, the creator of Angry Birds, reports serving more than 10 million mobile ad impressions a month. Twitter recently announced it handles some 250 million tweets a day. The quality and value of the user’s mobile app experience depends largely on the performance of the infrastructure on the network. Given mobile users’ need for speed, latency (or the time delay within a system) becomes a serious challenge—one that can be overcome by using flash memory in the data center to benefit the consumer experience.

Cloud Storage Requires Flash Memory for Enterprise

Aggregate bandwidth for a billion or more devices on 3G and 4G networks requires petabytes of storage. Mobile’s heavy workload is driving engineering teams to rethink the design of enterprise storage. Interestingly, the same technology that’s allowed the current generation of mobile devices to manage GBs of data is also being applied to enterprise storage.

Solid State Drives

The first efforts to bring solid-state storage to the enterprise were in the form of Solid State Disks (SSDs). The latest generation of SSDs is built with a ground-up design to support enterprise storage as an appliance. Flash memory appliances utilize 60 or more flash storage cards, working together as a storage volume, to maximize both availability and performance.

Flash Memory Array

Whether increased latency is temporary (lasting a few seconds) or persistent (constant), mobile consumers aren’t willing to stick around. What is the value of large-storage capacity if the user won’t wait for the latency? The features, scale and speed of mobile are driving a new wave of demand for storage. The latest generation of flash memory arrays combine more than ten thousand flash NAND chips into a single enterprise storage appliance. As sustainability becomes a higher priority for data centers, the benefits of flash-based enterprise storage (10 to 1 reduction in rack space and 5 to 1 reduction in power and cooling) will further the use of the formerly mobile-only NAND chip.


Scott Metzger is vice president of analytics at Violin Memory, where he leads company’s expansion into data intensive markets such as analytics, search and real-time decision management.

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