TMS Torches SSD Storage

Claims its new solid-state disk offers the world's fastest storage. But can anyone afford it?

July 2, 2003

3 Min Read
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No one would accuse solid-state disk (SSD) supplier Texas Memory Systems Inc. of false modesty. Today, the company announced that its new RamSan-320 unit offers nothing less than the worlds fastest storage (see TMS Launches Fastest SSD Storage).

The Houston-based company, which was founded way back in 1978, boasts that its new SSD unit offers a full 3-Gbytes/s bandwidth and 250,000 I/Os per second (IOPS). That’s between three and five times faster than existing SSD offerings, and 10 to 25 times better performance than existing RAID storage, the company claims.

“We have actual customer sites that have seen up to 25 times performance improvement with our disk,” says Woody Hutsell, executive vice president of TMS. “We feel that that’s going to put us in an excellent position versus our competition.”

Hutsell also insists the RamSan-320 unit provides greater reliability. While most existing SSD systems incorporate a single RAID disk drive for backups, in case a power failure wipes out the system’s memory, the 320 has three disks baked in. In addition, an Active Backup feature enables the system to continuously back up all data from the memory to the disks, Hutsell claims.

TMS's competition begs to differ with its claims. Craig Harries, the vice president of product marketing at Imperial Technology Inc., TMS’s main competitor in this space, says that the kind of performance and backup TMS is touting may be cool, but not very useful. “Nobody’s really running at those rates today,” he says. “It’s pretty hard to find someone who’s doing 10,000 IOPS… It’s like buying a car that can do 250 miles an hour. If you’re driving on a road where you can only go 60 miles an hour… you can’t use it.” Imperial’s MegaRam offers 40,000 IOPS (see Imperial Snaps Out of It).Evaluator Group analyst Randy Kerns says there is plenty of room for opportunity in this space for TMS, Imperial, and other players like Platypus Technology Inc. and Solid Data Systems. While the market for SSD systems, which dates back to the 1970s, slowed dramatically a couple of years ago in the mainframe space, he says it's experiencing a resurgence today in the open systems space. “The market has been growing continuously,” he says. “It’s not huge, but it’s a good market… There’s plenty of opportunity.”

What’s really going to open up the SSD market, according to Harries, will be software vendors providing applications that can run at the speeds available with SSD. “Some are putting their toe in the water,” he says, mentioning FalconStor Software Inc.’s (Nasdaq: FALC) HotZone software. “We’re still waiting for something to make SSD more usable.”

SSD systems consist of synchronous dynamic random-access memory (SDRAM) modules designed to eliminate I/O bottlenecks for high-performance applications, like online transaction processing, online analytical processing, modeling, and heavy-duty video servers. But while these systems deliver much better I/O performance, as well as more efficient small-block random writes than do magnetic disks, SSDs have typically been much more expensive per megabyte.

Prices, however, are coming down. TMS’s new 16-Gbyte RamSan-320, for instance, has a list price of $36,000, or just over $2,000 per Gbyte. That compares to the company’s 8-Gbyte RamSan-220, launched in February, which costs $45,000.

The RamSan-320, available now in the U.S. and Canada, includes between two and eight 2-Gbit Fibre Channel ports, hot-swappable disk drives and power supplies, redundant batteries and fans, and can be managed using secure Telnet, browser interface, or standard SNMP software, the company says.— Eugénie Larson, Reporter, Light Reading

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