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Accelerating Enterprise Adoption of Solid-State Storage

Solid-state disks are starting to make their way into the data centers of enterprises that need high performance, but broader deployment will take time and be driven by a number of factors. The main inhibitor is the high price of solid-state technology, which currently runs several times the price of a conventional hard disk drive. Businesses also are considering other issues when looking at SSDs, including data center space restrictions and the drive to cut energy and cooling costs.

Still, price is the main issue -- but not the only issue. And the price equation isn't clear cut. Companies need to do more than a straight price-per-gigabyte comparison when considering whether to invest in the new technology, analysts say. "There is a price-point argument starting to emerge for enterprises with SSD," says analyst Dennis Martin with research firm Demartek . In some cases, a business can populate a disk array with a combination of flash drives, Fibre Channel or SAS (serial attached SCSI) drives, and lower-cost SATA (serial advanced technology attachment) drives for roughly the same cost as a disk array that is fully populated with Fibre Channel disk drives.

"The key to making it work is finding the right combination," Martin says. "You might use flash SSD where you need high IOPS [input/output operations per second] performance and offset the cost of this resource by inserting SATA drives for data that is slower moving."

Some enterprises are already moving in this direction. Email security company DigiTar is employing hybrid storage that uses a SSD drive as a front end to an array of SATA drives for a fivefold increase in IOPS. Richrelevance, which specializes in personalized advertising and Website research for online retailers, swapped out hard drives for SSDs to cut latency from 100 milliseconds to 16 milliseconds. It also gained the ability to more quickly compute mathematical models and translate the results into timely recommendations for cybershoppers.

"Every enterprise scenario is different," Martin says, "But enterprises can begin to analyze whether they can take advantage of SSD at acceptable price points by first identifying the applications that are a fit for the technology."

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