Hitachi GST Enters Enterprise SSD Market

Hitachi Global Storage Technologies is claiming to be the first hard-drive supplier to deliver enterprise class Serial Attached SCSI and Fibre Channel solid state drives. Built around Intel NAND flash technology and available in 100, 200 and 400Gb capacities, the Ultrastar SSD400 family features both 2.5-inch 6Gb/s SAS and 3.5-inch 4Gb/s FC interfaces.

November 17, 2010

4 Min Read
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Hitachi Global Storage Technologies is claiming to be the first hard-drive supplier to deliver enterprise class Serial Attached SCSI and Fibre Channel solid state drives. Built around Intel NAND flash technology and available in 100, 200 and 400Gb capacities, the Ultrastar SSD400 family features both 2.5-inch 6Gb/s SAS and 3.5-inch 4Gb/s FC interfaces.

Analyst John Chen, Trend Focus, says HGST may be the first HDD vendor making this claim, but there are existing competitors. "Pliant has released a true SAS model, and, of course STEC has been in both markets. It is a significant announcement as this drive is a compelling competitor to STEC's offering."

HGST says the Ultrastar SSD400S family delivers the industry's highest sequential throughput, being the first to reach up to 535MB/s read and 500MB/s write throughput with 6Gb/s SAS, and 380MB/s read and 350MB/s write throughput with 4Gb/s FC. It also delivers up to 46,000 read and 13,000 sustained write IOPS, reaching speeds 100 times faster than traditional hard drives. The 400GB SSD can endure up to 35 petabytes (PB) of random writes over the life of the drive.

SSD analyst Jim Handy, Objective Analysis, says the enterprise SSD market is the faster growing of the two SSD markets -- enterprise and client -- with expected average annual unit shipment growth of almost 90 percent. "Objective Analysis predicts that unit shipments in 2015 will be seventeen times those of 2009 at over four million units, reaching $3.8 billion in revenues."

This new technology is a threat to enterprise HDDs, which initially replaced enterprise HDDs at a 10:1 ratio, but this drops to 2.5:1 by the end of the forecast period. This means that the enterprise HDD market will shrink faster than the enterprise SSD market can grow, states Objective Analysis.HGST had 2009 disk storage revenues of $4.8 billion and sees 2011 as the critical point for maturity and adoption of SSDs. So announcing now and ramping up production early next year means the timing is right, it says.

The enterprise SSD market is being fueled by the need for faster storage solutions and improvements in high throughput and I/O performance to address social networks, mobile applications, web TV, online video services and new tablet-like devices - all operating in the cloud. IDC adds that data centers are pushing the boundaries to make storage more efficient, from reducing floor space, power and cooling to leveraging next-generation technologies, like virtualization, deduplication and thin provisioning.

Handy sees the Intel component as critical to HGST's success. "Intel has developed quite a name for themselves in the client SSD space.

They have an excellent controller design that outperforms most, if not all, other SATA drives. I don't think any other company could do what Intel did: they assembled a crack team of their platform architects who carefully analyzed how HDDs are accessed by the system. With this understanding, and with knowledge of NAND flash unique to NAND suppliers, they optimized the NAND chips' interaction with the whole system -- hardware and software. By adding FC and SAS interfaces Hitachi is allowing OEMs to tap into this superior architecture for the enterprise market."

That's no guarantee for success, says IDC's Jeff Janukowicz, research manager for solid state drives. A number of SSD companies have entered the enterprise SSD segment but only a few vendors have found success to date. "Today, STEC is the leading vendors for SAS/FC SSD in the market. However, we also see a number of other companies actively shipping in Enterprise like Intel, Samsung, NetApp (who makes there own SSD called Flash Cache), Pliant, Fusion io, and SMART Module."IDC sees a bright future for SSDs and he thinks having Hitachi enter the segment helps validate it. "They bring proven design and qualification experience."

Mark Peters, senior analyst, Enterprise Strategy Group, Inc., agrees that Hitachi raises the stakes in the enterprise SSD space. "One of the values that a vendor such as Hitachi GST can bring to the market is to help create an examination and discussion about what the descriptor does should and could mean -- since it would have no fear of such a discussion. The adoption ramp has been slower than expected but is beginning to pick up, largely based on improved consumption abilities (knowledge of where to use and tools such as tiering that actually enable use)."

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