The world of electronics is filled with numbers and technical jargon. From gigabytes of RAM, terabytes of memory and petabytes of stored data on servers, the segmentation of information can be difficult to keep straight. However, the use of flash memory and flash arrays is poised to change the way computer and server memory is used.
The main difference between flash arrays and a traditional hard drive (HDD) is in the way the memory is stored. An HDD writes information to a spinning disc. While these forms have much larger storage space (1 terabyte HDDs are becoming common with personal computers) their use is limited by the speed at which the disc spins – average drives spin at 5,400 RPM while performance drives run at 7,200 RPM. While faster drives run your machine faster, they also present heating issues. Slower drives slow machines down, but don’t need as much cooling.
Flash arrays in the form of solid-state drives (SSDs) have gained traction in personal computing. Flash memory works by changing a series of switches with small amounts of electricity. They don’t have moving parts, so they’re far less fragile than HDDs. Thanks to their speed of access and limited energy usage, SSDs are creating more efficient machines. Many tech companies have begun to embrace versatile flash arrays in their products as well.
Amazon and Apple
It’s been said that mobile computing will soon replace the desktops and laptops that many use today. Thanks in large part to flash memory, companies like Amazon and Apple have built transformative tablet computers for portable use and fast access to stored information. While their flash memory covers costs of development, the larger amount of storage in a Kindle Fire HD or new iPad keeps your mobile devices running quickly and reliably.
Facebook is one of the largest websites on earth, with over a billion users. While so many people share updates and upload images, Facebook has been faced with the issue of how to store that information – energy costs of a traditional server space would be extremely high to handle the 7 petabytes (roughly 1 million gigabytes) worth of pictures that are uploaded each month. The company is exploring options of using flash arrays in a cold storage facility for images that are infrequently accessed. This elegant solution would minimize energy costs while still making photos available for users – the flash array would cycle up quickly in response to access requests.
The “ultrabook” line of Intel-inspired laptops serves as a transition between transitional laptops and tablets. These machines are light, elegantly designed, have limited space and use flash memory to accommodate the small size. An ultrabook is typically marketed to professionals on the go who need quick access to information, so a flash array allows them to pull up files and edit them quickly. The use of SSD memory also limits the energy use of the ultrabook, so a single charge will last 8 hours or even longer.
The technological landscape is always changing from one minute to the next. While HDD storage has dominated the landscape for some time, the use of flash memory has become more prevalent due to its speed and efficiency.