Suppliers Say Solid State Is Ready for Enterprise Storage

Suppliers say solid state drives are ready to streamline enterprise applications

April 8, 2008

3 Min Read
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- Alternative storage technologies are emerging as a theme at this year's spring SNW tradeshow here, and solid state drives (SSDs) are the subject of several sessions and announcements.

Today, for instance, disk supplier STEC introduced Zeus-IOPS, an SSD with a 4 Gbit/s Fibre Channel interface the manufacturer says is being tested by a range of major storage OEMs, including EMC and video-on-demand gear supplier Concurrent Computer.

Unofficially, word has it that IBM, HDS, and Sun are among other storage vendors testing solid-state drives, including STEC's. EMC was first to include STEC drives in its high-end Symmetrix arrays per its announcement in January.

The Zeus-IOPS is presently available in versions supporting 73 Gbytes to 512 Gbytes. MSRP hovers in the $25-per-Gbyte range, according to Patrick Wilkison, VP of marketing and business development at STEC.

Sure, that's pricey. But Wilkison claims SSDs can realize a 50- to 200-x improvement in drive performance compared with regular hard disk drives (HDDs).Another proponent of SSD says it's important not to compare SSDs with HDDs on a dollars-per-Gbyte basis, because the value of SSDs lies in their performance.

"SSD performance translates into lower total cost of ownership," said Richard Coulson, Intel senior fellow of the Intel Technology and Manufacturing Group, which makes SSD drives. During a breakout session at SNW here today, Coulson said SSDs should be evaluated in terms of IOPS (input/output operations per second) per watt. In a mini-demo, he ran video depicting a notebook computer's HDD performing at 4.6 IOPS/watt, the same task that an SSD achieved with 200 IOPS/watt.

Despite these and other claims, Coulson acknowledged -- well, made a point of stating -- that not all SSDs are created equal. In some instances, performance can even be slower than HDDs if the manufacturer doesn't design them properly. (Of course, the audience knew whose drives he was touting.)

Still, it's common knowledge that SSDs have a few hurdles to overcome before widespread enterprise adoption. Besides being costly, SSDs are reportedly more prone to failure than HDDs. And the benefits they bring may not translate to all applications across the board.

Nonetheless, a growing roster of enterprises with online transaction processing applications are taking more

interest in SSDs than ever before. This has spurred longstanding suppliers like Texas Memory Systems, Samsung, and Sandisk to launch fresh campaigns emphasizing enterprise use.Startups are also emerging that use SSD in enterprise storage solutions. These include recently funded Pliant and Third I/O Inc., a startup that is slated to participate in a multivendor FCOE demonstration here tomorrow. (More on that later.)

The big enterprise drive makers are a bit slower on the uptake, though Seagate has stated its intent to launch a product by early '09, while not giving specifics.

STEC's Wilkison thinks HDD-makers' support of SSD will be a critical factor in the growth of technology as an enterprise storage standard. He says analysts have put it rising from $50 million to $150 million in estimated present revenues worldwide to a potential $2 billion by 2010.

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  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • Hitachi Data Systems (HDS)

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC)

  • Pliant Technology Inc.

  • Samsung Corp.

  • Seagate Technology Inc. (NYSE: STX)

  • SanDisk Corp. (Nasdaq: SNDK)

  • STEC Inc.

  • Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: JAVA)

  • Texas Memory Systems Inc.

  • Third I/O Inc.

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