Some commenters defending traditional storage have stated that flash arrays are not ideal for every workload. I couldn’t agree more.

But that begs the real question: what are the high-cost, big iron arrays like the Symm good for?

Functional obsolescence
If we look at the last 10 years of array development developers and users have been trying to overcome the inherent architectural limitations of enterprise arrays. When a costly enterprise resource is averaging about 30% utilization something is terribly wrong.

Thin provisioning, short stroking, huge caches and – lately – SSD caching are all attempts to deal with the fact that the big iron infrastructure is unable to meet critical enterprise requirements as built.

The enterprise needs I/O, not capacity. Capacity is cheap and I/Os are dear – except on big arrays – where both are costly.

Which gets back to the original question: what workloads are enterprise arrays good for? Because as several flash array vendors have pointed out – Pure Storage among them – with inline compression, dedup and higher average utilization – flash arrays don’t cost much more per gig and offer much higher performance per watt and square foot.

20 years of schooling
One answer might be any application that requires enterprise levels of availability. After all, enterprise storage arrays have been in development for 20 years.

Another might be related more to management: organizations that have trained their SysAdmin staff to use and manage high-end arrays could find it costly to make the conversion.

The latter is simply a way of saying inertia rules the data center. But data centers are factories, not artists studios, and they need regularity and consistency above all else. Data center managers will get dinged more for failing to stay on schedule then they will get kudos for being creative.

The StorageMojo take
Product categories that overshoot market needs are like a cartoon character running off a cliff: everything’s fine until they look down. That moment has arrived for the enterprise array business.

The PC business did the same starting 10 years ago. The rage for netbooks a few years ago was a symptom of consumer desire for smaller, lighter and cheaper systems. The iPad embodied those unmet needs and the PC business has begun a long term decline.

Flash arrays – and other flash-enabled storage – are similarly disruptive. When you look at all the inventive effort to make enterprise arrays not look like the big, clumsy and overpriced dinosaurs they are, it only underscores how ready customers are for something better.

Amazon Web Services benefits from that discontent. Flash arrays do too.

Courteous comments welcome, of course. So tell us: what workloads are enterprise arrays ideal for on a price/performance basis?