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IT Executives Have Better Handle On SSD's In 2010

In the last three years, IT executives have been hearing about solid state disk drives (SSD), but technology adoption has largely been limited to high performance computing (HPC) where SSD is an integral component. This year, market uptake will again expand, only now decision-makers have a better grasp of how and where they can use SSD in their enterprises.

One immediate application area is laptop and notebook computing, where SSDs exceed hard drives in performance, are cost-competitive and provide lighter-weight mobile devices. Beyond that, vendors like Pliant, Intel, SanDisk, Seagate and others are increasingly packaging SSD with their products or offering SSD  as  a product option for processing-intensive and green computing scenarios in the data center.

"There are two areas in memory and storage where vendor engineers are using SSDs as building blocks," said Phil Mills, Director and Secretary of the Solid State Storage Initiative for SNIA (Storage Networking Industry Association). "In the area of processing memory, some vendors are extending the capabilities of cache memory with solid state flash. In the enterprise area, vendors have figured out that SSD technology is a potential game-changer that can break the cycle we've experienced over the past 40 years with the pros and cons of slow-rotating media like traditional hard drives." Mills feels that the easing of the economic downturn in 2010, coupled with enterprise needs for memory expansion and data center energy reductions, are likely to fuel more enterprise SSD purchases. "Solid state technology has also become more mature, and many enterprises have gotten their hands on it and know what SSD can and cannot do," added Mills.

At the same time, however, the enterprise SSD market at the start of 2010 faces tight chip supplies which could exert upward pressures on pricing. "Many vendors that supply SSD solutions to both the consumer and the enterprise markets will see that while raw SSD on the enterprise side might cost them $10/gigabyte, the cost on the consumer side might only be $2/gigabyte," said industry analyst Gregory Wong of Forward Insights. The same vendors might be inspired to focus on the consumer side of SSD in order to capitalize on the greater margins.

Despite this, both Wong and Mills expect the 2010 SSD enterprise market to be active. "One of things we are going to see is many different types of system designs that capitalize on the flexible form factors that flash memory can have," said Mills. "For example, vendors are doing different things with cache to speed up processing. With the addition of flash, programs no longer have to wait for I/O anymore, and with SSD-enabled storage that is closer to the CPU, it might inspire a move in IT infrastructure away from network storage and back to network-attached storage."

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