Solutions Blog

Flash, yes, but is it storage or memory?

By Richard Arneson

We’ve all been pretty well trained to believe that, at least in the IT industry, anything defined or labeled as “flash” is a good thing. It conjures up thoughts of speed (“in a flash”), which is certainly one of most operative words in the industry―everybody wants “it” done faster. But the difference between flash memory and flash storage is often confused, as both not only store information, but are both referred to as Solid State Storage. For instance, a thumb drive utilizes flash memory, but is considered a storage device, right? And both are considered solid state storage devices, which means neither is mechanical, but electronic. Mechanical means moving parts, and moving parts means prone to failure from drops, bumps, shakes or rattles.

Flash Memory―short-term storage

Before getting into flash memory, just a quick refresher on what memory accomplishes. Memory can be viewed as short-term data storage, maintaining information that a piece of hardware is actively using. The more applications you’re running, the more memory is needed. It’s like a workbench, of sorts, and the larger its surface area, the more projects you can be working on at one time. When you’re done with a project, you can store it long-term (data storage), where it’s easily retrieved when needed. Flash memory accomplishes its tasks in a non-volatile manner, meaning it doesn’t require power to function. It’s quickly accessible, smaller in size, and more durable than volatile memory, such as RAM (Random Access Memory), which requires the device to be powered on to access. And once it’s turned off, data in RAM is gone.

Flash Storage―storage for the long term

Much like a combustion engine, flash storage, the engine, needs flash memory, the fuel, to run. It’s nonvolatile (doesn’t require power), and utilizes one of two (2) types of flash memory―NAND or NOR. NAND flash memory writes and reads data in blocks, while NOR does it in independent bytes. NOR flash is faster and more expensive, and better for processing small amounts of code―it’s often used in mobile phones. NAND flash is generally used for devices that need to upload and/or replace large files, such as photos, music or videos. Confusion between flash storage and flash memory might be non-existent for some, maybe even most, but it’s astounding how much information either confuses the two (2) or does a poor job differentiating them.

Contact the Flash experts

For more information about flash storage, including all-flash arrays, which contain many flash memory drives and are ideal for large enterprise and data center solutions, contact the talented, tenured solutions architects and engineers at GDT. They’re experienced at designing and implementing storage solutions, whether on-prem or in the cloud, for enterprises of all sizes. You can reach them at Engineering@gdt.com.]]>

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