There’s a lot to like about flash storage compared to spinning disks, including high performance, a smaller footprint, energy efficiency and more opportunities to reclaim memory. No wonder IDC expects all-flash arrays to remain one of the fastest growing enterprise storage markets through at least 2020, with a compound annual growth rate of 21.4 percent.

Whether you’re considering an all-flash or hybrid flash-disk deployment, don’t overlook analytics. That’s the key to maximizing those benefits and taking advantage of others. Case in point: More than half of the problems that undermine application performance aren’t directly caused by storage, according to a report from Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE). By ferreting out the root causes of problems — including misconfigurations and virtual machine issues — HPE says analytics can raise flash storage availability to at least 99.9999 percent.

With analytics doing most of the grunt work, IT teams can focus on acting on those insights. For example, the InfoSight analytics tools in HPE Nimble Storage automatically create trouble tickets, so IT staff can resolve problems before they affect lines of business or become noticeable to customers. Fewer help desk calls and less detective work also gives staff more time to focus on other tasks, including those that contribute to the bottom line.

Work Smarter, Not Harder

Essentially, InfoSight is artificial intelligence for the data center, monitoring for unexpected problems within and outside the array. Its cloud-based engine uses metadata, rather than actual customer data, making it more secure. The AI sees only that the underlying data represents, for example, a SQL virtual machine or a file server workload.

That metadata does let IT staff know, for instance, that a certain customer has a particular brand and model of switch. So when that vendor issues a patch that’s known to cause errors in certain applications, InfoSight can establish a use case, quickly identify which customers will be affected and take proactive steps, such as alerting them to the issue.

From a big-picture perspective, InfoSight facilitates more accurate data center planning. It forecasts, for example, how and where an organization will need additional capacity based on current usage trends. CIOs and IT managers can use that information to show CFOs why additional storage or cache will be needed to avoid bottlenecks and downtime months down the road. That’s another example of how analytics can drive informed, proactive business decisions.

Gain Better Insights Without Compromising Security

InfoSight is web-based, so it’s accessible on any browser and device. This helps cost-conscious teams wring more out of existing infrastructure. For example, the all-flash version of Nimble Storage can perform in-line deduplication and compression, while the hybrid version can do in-line compression. The deduplication occurs in real time as data comes in, with two-level fingerprinting for speed and detection.

In addition to the security layer embodied by InfoSight’s metadata-based analytics, Nimble Storage’s all-flash version can encrypt data at rest. The controller encrypts compressed data before writing it to solid-state drives, an approach that provides a unique key per volume for more protection than drive-level encryption.

These encryption capabilities are built into the Nimble Storage array so, as with InfoSight, they’re benefits that don’t cost extra. Together, these benefits demonstrate why flash and analytics aren’t just something you can afford to have. They’re capabilities you can’t afford not to have.

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