Flash storage will play vital role in growth of smart cities

Flash storage has the versatility and the high levels performance to support the delivery of citizen services to dense urban populations

Updated: Sep 22, 2016 02:23:12 PM UTC
Flash storage has the versatility and the high levels performance to support the delivery of citizen services to dense urban populations. (Shutterstock.com)

Flash storage – the technology that helped mobile devices get lighter, sleeker and smarter – will play a vital role in the growth of smart cities. How does the same storage technology make this leap in scale? How does storage, ostensibly tailor-made for portable computing, become a key technology for larger-than-life and very-much-rooted projects like smart cities? It boils down to how cutting edge and innovative storage solutions are staking their claim on blueprints for smart cities both internationally and in India.

The smart cities mission, articulated in the Digital India initiative, has been gathering momentum in the last couple of years. The Indian government estimates that as a result of rural-urban migration, urban areas in India will need to accommodate more than 840 million people by 2050. This serves as an urgent call to plan and expand cities in an intelligent and strategic manner so that they can provide civic and urban services to city dwellers in an effective and cost-effective manner. These smart services range from governance, resources (clean air and water, sustainable power) and civic amenities like health, education, transportation, roadways, etc.

The Digital India programme envisions that these smart cities will run on a digital backbone, with the use of technology being a crucial factor in setting up and managing these services in a cost-effective and reliable manner. Common IT infrastructure and connectivity for all city service providers will add the transparency and efficiency that has been lacking in urban management programmes. Therefore, the broadband highway, described as one of the pillars of the Digital India programme, will also serve as a foundational pillar for smart cities and be a part of the more expansive Internet of Things (IoT).

The IoT is the engine that powers smart cities. It connects billions of physical objects – sensors, devices, CCTV cameras, appliances, vehicles (both public transport and private), buildings and much more – all embedded with intelligent electronics, so they can collect and exchange data. In other words, the IoT hosts the infrastructure for intelligent automation that smart cities need to implement data-driven and efficient civic services using a common, collaborative and scalable framework. For example, citywide CCTV data that is intelligently processed and categorised can be used by both the city law enforcement to prevent and solve crimes, and by the city transportation services to manage roadways, traffic and congestion. Traffic and congestion data, will, in turn, feed into monitoring of air quality and pollutions measures.

This smart IoT–based infrastructure requires flash at different points in the network and in various form factors. The often-mobile device endpoints need compact, robust and power efficient storage. Thereafter, the various edge data processing points across the network need storage banks to support data collection and analysis. These feed into the centralised cloud-based data centre which needs sophisticated, high performance, yet flexible storage to process and maintain data of gigantic proportions. Flash addresses the myriad storage requirements of all parts of a smart city network.

Flash storage solutions can serve as the bedrock of a resource and data management platform that is essential for knowledge sharing, planning and collaboration vital to city governance. A cloud-based platform based on high performance flash storage is the best way for growing cities to centralise and scale their IT infrastructure. It allows them to invest in what they need, with the flexibility to quickly size and scale the infrastructure without getting bogged down in the details of managing physical assets and operational logistics. A common city-wide IT infrastructure facilitates interconnection of the different facets of city services like civic, health, education, justice, etc in a seamless manner.

More and more cloud-based environments are moving to flash based storage. The reasons are many and compelling. Enterprise-grade flash storage comes in a variety of sizes and configurations, allowing it to be easily added into existing setups incrementally. Data centres find that using flash actually cuts down costs after factoring in capital costs as well as operational expenses (including space, power consumption and ease of management). Flash also provides support for software-defined storage, allowing them to be managed and provisioned centrally (and remotely). This winning combination of high-performance, cost benefits and ease of management makes flash ideal for smart city infrastructure in both the traditional cloud and hybrid cloud environments.

For smart cities, a hybrid and flexible cloud paradigm is well suited. It allows them to partition and provision data, manage access to it across the various city agencies and even allow for selective privileges in their public-private partnerships. Flash storage has the versatility and the high levels performance to support the delivery of citizen services to dense urban populations. It also allows data to be managed and controlled both on- and off-premise to accommodate all manner or disaster recovery and redundancy configurations.

As the next-gen in storage solutions, flash been continuously evolving and improving since the beginning and has outpaced traditional storage systems like hard drives in speed, performance, robustness, reliability and certainly in capacity as well! As blue prints of Indian smart cities begin to take shape, flash storage will take its rightful place in the technical infrastructure that will be the underpinning of these massive digital undertakings.

This article expresses the views of the author and not necessarily that of his employer.

- By Vivek Tyagi, Director for India business development, SanDisk Commercial sales and Support at Western Digital Corporation

The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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