Storage: Top 5 Tips for a Smooth Flash Migration

If you’re coming up on a storage refresh, you may be consider upgrading to a new type of storage. Your hard disk drive storage may be strained by rapidly increasing data loads. Moving to high-capacity, high-performance storage like flash can solve this problem. While the end results are worth it, the process of moving to a new type of storage can be daunting.

Any storage migration can be disruptive and risky. All your systems are connected. Any change to one part can interfere with the rest. Planning ahead and conducting the transition in stages can streamline the process. Following 5 tips for planning a flash storage migration will eliminate some of the stumbling blocks you might face.

The top 5 ways to ease your transition to flash storage are:

1) Determine whether you want to move to an all-flash array (AFA) or a hybrid solution.

Are you all-in, or do you want to combine flash storage with hard disk drives?

AFAs offer tier 1 storage for applications that demand continuous high-level performance. They also offer data management tools like deduplication and compression. Hybrid flash allows you to use a combination of disk-based and flash storage to prioritize workloads. Workloads that demand a high IOPS rate can be handled by flash storage, while backup and archiving can be handled by lower performing disks.

2) Work with your partner to minimize the amount of business time used to make the transition.

While the migration to an AFA can take less than a day, your company needs to account for the time needed to move applications to the array.

Planned downtime during a migration is inevitable, but you can minimize the amount of time required. Consult with your individual departments to figure out optimal times when applications can be offline. Each department may have an ideal time when they won’t be affected by a shutdown.

3) Make sure your network can work well with a flash storage array.

Oftentimes, decisions about the network were made with slower disk storage in mind, so you need to make sure your network is prepared for the challenge. Flash storage eliminates bottlenecks from backend storage with its high rate of IOPS and super-low latency. As great as these levels of performance are, flash can shift bottlenecks to the network.

You can plan ahead by identifying potential bottlenecks before upgrading to flash. Prevent traffic jams by upgrading your network and preparing for higher speed storage.

To get the network performance you want with flash, you need a minimum of 8 gigabytes per second (Gbps) on fiber channel. If possible, 16 Gbps is ideal to prevent bottlenecks.

4) Determine that you have adequate bandwidth by investing in performance monitoring tools.

AFAs were once reserved for specialized applications to use. Today, they may use extra network bandwidth to run multiple applications and databases. Before moving to flash, you want to be prepared for the network requirements of a higher performing storage solution.

Network performance monitoring can help you establish a baseline to see if you will have enough bandwidth once the transition to flash takes place. Simulating and testing the effects of incorporating flash will help identify which applications may be disabled.

5) Take time to deploy, test, and train your employees on the new system.

Conduct a dry run of the new storage solution to work out the kinks before putting other parts of your system at risk. Once you are confident the system is in working order, then you can move on to installing and testing the network and backup systems.

Working with a new storage solution takes some time to get used to. After deployment, your staff needs to familiarize themselves with the new system. Training sessions will help get everyone up to speed.

A little foresight goes a long way when making a major transition like upgrading your storage. Choosing the right partner to help you through the transition can make all the difference. Consulting with a partner that has a depth of experience with flash migration can work with you to develop the best plan.

Gil Rolon