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Enterprise Embraces Flash, But Battle Looming

Solid-state drive technologies and high-speed memory are being openly embraced by the enterprise market, but while adoption appears to be skyrocketing, the market will be hotly contested, according to a new study from Storage Strategies NOW. The report, "Solid State Drives and High-Speed Memory: Adoption, Practice and Deployment," which includes the results of a co-sponsored Storage Networking Industry Association/Storage Strategies NOW IT survey, indicates what's driving this growth and examines the state of the supplier market.

The respondents' plans for data warehousing and primary storage adoption indicates, at least in our take, that we have passed a tipping point that is related more to access rate than cost per gigabyte, which historically has been a gating factor, says Jim Bagley, senior analyst and business development consultant, Storage Strategies NOW. While still the biggest concern, at 32%, cost wasn't the only barrier. Other concerns included integration, reliability and difficulty of management.

The primary drivers for adoption were the need to reduce response times, storage tiering to help throughput, followed by increasing business agility. Key applications for 2011 are headed by database and transactional structured data, followed closely by OTLP and high-performance computing applications. For 2012, data warehousing moves to the top of the list, followed by primary data, Tier 0 storage, and business continuity and disaster recovery.

Achieving specific business needs topped the list of results, with 52.8% strongly agreeing and 29.6% somewhat agreeing. Almost three-quarters (73.1%) strongly agreed (51.1%) or somewhat agreed that SSD/high-speed memory adoption resulted in faster response to business needs. Third place was held by "significantly quicker and easier to deploy," followed by "they changed the way the businesses were run." Other advantages included requiring less power and reducing operating expenses (74.6%) and reducing response times (50.8%).

Accounting for almost half the responses, HP (including 3Par) was the preferred SSD vendor (44.5%), followed by EMC (plus Isilon), IBM, and Fusion-io and NetApp tied for fourth. Just over half the respondents said they had deployed a drive device format in a new storage array, followed by an appliance attached for access acceleration and drive device format in workstations and laptops. Looking ahead, new storage arrays will dominate (57.1%), followed by workstations and laptops, and access acceleration.

Expect a lot of turmoil in the vendor segment, says Bagley. "From the input from participants and recent events, we are even more expectant of an impending dogfight between flash foundry owners for the enterprise SSD business. Toshiba, Micron and Intel have new products targeted in this space, not to mention the SanDisk acquisition of enterprise SSD maker Pliant Technologies. This just leaves Samsung as a major foundry owner that is working closely with Seagate in the enterprise space."

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