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SandForce Attacks SSD Limitations

Many enterprises have been reluctant to adopt solid-state disk drive (SSD) technology, worried about a variety of issues such as quality of service with write performance, overall product durability, and high cost. This comes at a time when industry researcher Enterprise Strategy Group reports that a survey of enterprise IT managers indicates that 47 percent think SSDs are too expensive when compared to hard-disk drives and 48 percent say that they are not interested because SSDs have either limited drive capacity or no applications where flash makes sense. Another 19 percent say they're worried about reliability and longevity when it comes to flash-based SSDs.

A new vendor SandForce recently emerged from stealth mode to unveil the SF-1000 SSD Processor Family, a replacement for conventional storage controllers that it says will address enterprise concerns about flash SSD endurance, reliability, and data retention.

Other suppliers have tried to answer enterprise flash SSD challenges by focusing on product buildouts at lower geometries in order to reduce production (and therefore retail) costs. They've also incorporated wear-leveling algorithms to extend flash SSD lifespans and are using integrated, automated storage management to reserve solid-state disk for high-demand processing and spreading the work of the enterprise over a mix of solid-state and hard-drive devices so as to utilize "best choice" storage media.

"There's both fear and trepidation in the minds of enterprise storage managers when it comes to moving from hard drives to SSDs," says Jim Handy, semiconductor analyst for research firm Objective Analysis. "A transition to solid state technology is made that much easier if these managers can just do a one-to-one replacement of a hard drive with an SSD. It is easy to see how SSD performs in this context, and to make a decision as to whether SSD is providing value or it isn't. If you do this on a small scale, you can plug in one SSD and replace three hard drives, and you'll see a modest improvement with two empty hard drive slots."

The approach is reassuring for many enterprise storage managers who lack practical experience with SSDs, are just getting their feet wet, and are fully cognizant of the career risks of being first to deploy a new technology.

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