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EMC Delivers On Server-Based Flash Storage

Originally unveiled last May and scheduled to ship in 2011, EMC's PCIe/flash-based server cache technology, code-named Project Lightning, is now available under the name of VFCache. The enterprise storage giant has been the leader in enterprise flash drive capacity since entering this market in 2008, shipping more than 24 petabytes in 2011, an eight times increase in customer shipments since 2009, says Mark Sorenson, senior VP and general manager of EMC's Flash Business Unit.

According to recent data from IDC, solid-state drives (flash) are reshaping the enterprise storage market as prices continue to fall and performance increases. "We are seeing increased use of SSDs across the enterprise. A number of environments from tiered solutions, virtualized, databases and the cloud can all benefit from the use of SSDs," says IDC's Jeff Janukowicz, research director for solid state storage and hard disk drive components.

Jim Bagley, senior analyst and business development consultant, Storage Strategies Now, calls VFCache "a pretty conservative product." "It is a straightforward implementation of a write-through read cache. Each server can accelerate access to a designated LUN, but servers can't share a LUN due to the potential of stepping on data. The PCIe board selected as the lead product is Micron's 34nm SLC model, with only 300 Gbytes of capacity."

Mark Peters, senior analyst, Enterprise Strategy Group, isn't sure about EMC's claim that this signifies the next era of enterprise flash technology, "ironically because I think it was EMC itself that propelled us into the latest era, four years ago, when it introduced solid state drives into the Symmetrix. The move to the server is simply another logical step in terms of making solid state technology a standard element in storage infrastructures."

The company may not be the first to put flash in the server, but Peters says this is EMC, and so the move is extremely significant for the entire industry. "It is now blessed directly by one of the industry giants, and that signifies that solid state will prevail as a key element for the foreseeable future in storage ecosystems. This matters to EMC, to other big vendors, to start-ups and, last but certainly not least, to users."

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