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SSDs May Get Boost From Hybrid Storage Systems, Automated Management

With or without an economic downturn, solid-state disks (SSDs) are coming to the enterprise. The deployment is likely to come slowly, with SSDs gradually being added to servers or replacing hard drives in data center storage racks -- and only where performance and the end of storage asset cycles warrant the replacement. However, there is also a school of thought that contends that enterprises won't be so conservative and that they will opt instead for fully integrated storage systems that come in the door with SSDs.

Sun Microsystems, with its Sun 7000 Unified Storage Systems, is certainly banking on it. EMC, which offers SSDs in all of its storage product lines, feels the same way. Why all the optimism around turnkey SSD-integrated systems that require greater up-front expenditures?

The benefits of a fully integrated hardware-software integrated system are automated management of the storage resource, and the full backing and support of reputable vendors that have already performed all of the laboratory benchmarks and the due diligence on best storage management practices and build this knowledge into the end product. For enterprises new to the world of hybrid SSD-HDD (hard-disk drive) storage solutions, "ready to roll" products mean that they can immediately put the systems to work as soon as they arrive.

"Enterprise users of these systems are not expecting to have to do anything different than they do with their existing storage," says Bob Merritt, a founding partner of researcher firm Convergent Semiconductors. "They don't want to have to 'blaze a path' in getting up to speed in managing hybrid storage, and they are counting on system vendors to build this infrastructure expertise into the product."

The price of this expertise should not be underestimated. Sun initially introduced its FishWorks product, which includes the System 7000, into the marketplace in November 2008. "Since then, we have talked about flash storage with our customers, and everyone got very excited when they saw the prices of flash falling precipitously," says Adam Leventhal, senior staff engineer at Sun. "But when we asked our enterprise customers how they planned to use flash, they had no idea. We recognized that one of the ways we could help customers in a flash implementation would be to show them how to use flash most effectively."

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