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Enterprise Flash Drives Target the Data Center

With a "green energy" theme taking hold this year and continued pressures on IT managers to shrink storage footprints and reduce energy consumption in data centers, there appears to be an emerging case for flash memory in the enterprise that can coexist with tight 2009 budgets.

The data center "sweet spot" for flash is in its capacity to position itself between higher-performing memory like cache and RAM and slower media like hard drives. By inserting enterprise flash drives (EFDs) in areas where they can deliver low latency and high performance for input/output, enterprises are likely to see a positive difference in I/O processing as they compute their total cost of ownership for data centers.

"Bear in mind that it's not the most optimal solution for enterprises to simply put flash in for hard disk drives, and we are not advocating that," says David Flynn, chief technology officer for
Fusion-io Inc. , a provider of solid-state technology. "To make the case for flash in enterprises, you need to insert flash where it can deliver the most benefit and value." That area is in throughput and I/O -- and in the potential power savings that data centers are able to realize.

Power savings must be a factor in any data center's TCO computations. In 2007, Gartner's research vice president Michael Bell projected that 50 percent of data centers would exceed 6 kilowatts of energy per rack within two years -- and that the percentage would increase to 70 percent to 80 percent of all data centers in four years. Bell concluded that the energy consumption and the costs were unsustainable.

"We know that IT decision makers are still very cautious about SSD [solid-state drive] technology," says Greg Goelz, vice president of marketing for
Pliant Technology Inc. , a maker of enterprise flash drives established by executives and engineers from Fujitsu Ltd. (Tokyo: 6702; London: FUJ; OTC: FJTSY), Maxtor Corp. , and Seagate Technology Inc. (NYSE: STX) "But they are also starting to see SSD product that is ready for the data center. It's increasingly difficult, if you're a CIO, to continue to work with traditional media and toolsets. In many cases, you've already optimized your media and your energy usage. The challenge now is to find a bolder way to drive efficiency and power savings in the data center. One way to do this is by being able to turn racks into shelves, which EFDs can do."

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