Solid Data

Pushes 1-Tbyte solid state disk array as a high-speed alternative to traditional storage

August 18, 2007

3 Min Read
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Driven by users' growing need for high-speed storage, solid state disk (SSD) technology is gaining momentum.

Solid Data Systems unveiled a 1-Tbyte SSD array today, which it is touting as an alternative to traditional storage. (See SDS Offers 1TB SSD.) IBM has unveiled plans to deploy flash memory SSDs from SanDisk in its blade servers, and Solid Data Systems rival Texas Memory Systems continues to ramp up its efforts in this space. (See IBM Selects SanDisk, Solid Data Breaks Price Barrier, SST NANDrive Gets Certified, Alternative Uses BitMicro, Solid State for Small Biz, Solaris Certifies RamSan-400.)

Solid state's big selling point is that it can speed up the transfer of data for I/O-intensive processes, enabling applications to run faster. But the cost associated with SSD has traditionally made it a bad fit for large chunks of unstructured data, which may contain a lot of material not vital to a business anyway. (See Solid State for Small Biz.)

SSD products use random access memory (RAM), as opposed to traditional magnetic or optical media, to store and access data. As a result, access speeds are typically much higher than traditional disk: 5 milliseconds for magnetic versus as little as 20 microseconds for solid state. Backers of this approach, such as Solid Data, also promote it as a way to minimize or eliminate server I/O bottlenecks. (See Disk Drive Alternatives on the Boil.)

Solid Data's StorageSPIRE offering, unveiled today, is a six-foot-high cabinet with four Gigabit Ethernet connections and up to 12 Fibre Channel links. The system, which is available now, can be either direct attached or used as part of a SAN.The vendor also uses a technique called direct addressing, which transfers data from the FC bus direct to RAM, avoiding the use of a processor chip. Jerry Martuscelli, Solid Data's director of sales and services, claims this tack enables data speeds as low as 10 microseconds, which can be critical in areas such as financial services. "Knowing the cost of a stock right now, as opposed to half a second from now, can cost traders billions of dollars."

Cost nonetheless remains an issue in the SSD market. With a 1-Tbyte StorageSPIRE system costing between $900,000 and $950,000, the array will be out of the price range of many users. Even Martuscelli admits that a similarly-sized array of magnetic disk would cost almost half the price of the SSD system.

Despite this price difference, Martuscelli says that, when customers are looking for high-speed data transfer, even traditional storage can be expensive. "We worked with a customer where they were looking at striping together as many as 70 Sun servers to hold 128 Gbytes of cache per server -- it was less expensive to use SSD."

At least one user buys into the cost and performance benefits of SSD. Atlanta, Ga.-based power firm Southern Company has already deployed SSD technology from Solid Data, which has helped it reduce the amount of time spent running tests by almost 50 percent. As a result, Greg Sewell, the firm's computer systems analyst, disagrees that SSD is prohibitively expensive. "To get the same level of performance from traditional disk would have been much more expensive."

Solid Data uses 19 inch SSDs, whereas IBM's blade server deal with SanDisk involves the 2.5-inch flash memory version of solid state. Although offering a much smaller footprint, the SanDisk SSD is significantly slower than Solid Data's, with just over 100 microseconds of data throughput.Earlier this week, analyst firm In-Stat also pointed to growing demand for SSD, driven partly by increasing use of the technology in PCs. (See In-Stat Says SSDs on Way.)

James Rogers, Senior Editor Byte and Switch

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • In-Stat/MDR

  • SanDisk Corp. (Nasdaq: SNDK)

  • Solid Data Systems

  • Texas Memory Systems Inc.

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