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Figuring the TCO for Solid-State Disks

How quickly and to what extent businesses and other enterprises embrace solid-state technology in their storage infrastructure is an issue of heated debate among industry analysts and SSD vendors. In the end, it will probably boil down to the mundane calculation of total cost of ownership, which includes a variety of factors such as the benefits derived from an increase in performance.

The interesting thing about TCO is that while it is methodical, it is never uniform. Every enterprise has its own approach to calculating TCO, and then factoring TCO into equipment evaluations and buy decisions. However, nearly all enterprises consider price points, efficiency, performance, quality, and reliability in their TCO assessments.

The significance of Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: JAVA) and Micron Technology Inc. (Nasdaq: MU)s December announcement, of highly durable NAND flash memory with single-level cell (SLC) write cycles that have increased from 100,000 to 1 million cycles and multi-level cell (MLC) write cycles that have gone from 10,000 to 100,000 write cycles, chips away at the reliability questions about NAND in TCO assessments. It also more closely matches NAND with enterprise expectations of durability. The advances in write-cycle performance are intended to overturn enterprise perceptions that question both NAND's reliability and durability -- and to let enterprise decision makers know that NAND is ready for enterprise applications.

"We are working with several enterprise vendors and are developing a new class of NAND for enterprises," says Michael Cornwell, lead technologist of flash memory at Sun Microsystems. "Traditional NAND flash was designed for consumer applications, but we have worked with others within the industry on the specific demands of enterprise users and feel we now have a product that can meet the needs of the 24x7 enterprise."

Of course, it is going to take more than reliability and durability to win in enterprise TCO assessments.

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