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Should flash storage be used for backup performance?

Adding a high-speed flash storage tier to secondary storage can increase backup performance

Flash storage has its place when it comes to improving backup performance. Flash-only backup processes are unrealistic, but a high-speed storage tier is becoming increasingly common in disk backup systems. This architecture consists of a storage array with primarily rotational disk drives and some flash storage included. Data is initially written to the flash storage and then moved to hard disk drive storage.

This approach is probably best suited to organizations that use continuous data protection (CDP). Most CDP products are asynchronous, meaning backups occur on a scheduled basis, typically every five minutes or so. The only way these types of backup processes can work is if the backup target is efficient enough to handle the inbound data on a timely basis without getting bogged down.

Backup performance bottlenecks occur because there is a many-to-one ratio of protected resources to the backup target. In other words, multiple systems are backed up to a single backup target. As the number of protected servers (or number of write operations) increases, so does the volume of data the backup server will need to handle during each backup cycle. This is where the storage array's high-speed tier comes into play.

The high-speed tier lets the inbound data be written almost as quickly as the network connection allows, which means backup cycles can be completed very quickly. The data can then be transferred from the flash storage to the high-capacity, low-price hard disk tier while the server waits for the next backup cycle to occur.

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