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Solid State: From Silver Bullet To Silver Lining

If you've had your head buried really deep in the sand, you may have avoided noticing that solid state is a hot topic. However, even if you came up for a quick breathe in the last handful of years--maybe to catch a glimpse of an IT Cloud or to admire your Big Data summary on an iSomething--you couldn't fail to hear the solid state refrain. Certainly solid state is arriving everywhere and in increasing volumes; this is a correct perception as the last article I wrote for Information Week addressed. Interestingly, the reality underlying this growth in adoption is--logically but unexpectedly--driven by economic value as well as by the more obvious performance benefits.

So, we're getting more--and expecting even more--of this solid state stuff, but what is it actually being used for? Did users all suddenly wake up and need uber-performance? Did the price of solid state storage come tumbling down to make its purchase a "no brainer"? The answer to both questions is "maybe a bit but that's not really it." Instead--driven by growing market understanding, combined with the availability of better software management tools--what's happening is that solid state is making the move from a vertical application problem "fixer" to be a broader horizontal "infrastructural play." With a similar "logical but unexpected" twist as the adoption story, the use of solid state is starting to move from specific to general.

Silver Bullets and Silver Linings

Recently ESG conducted research of IT professionals at mid-market and enterprise organizations to discover their current and planned usage of solid state storage technology. In terms of the applications for this "precious metal" (and silicon!) the key findings make interesting reading:

Solid state has--historically--often been purchased in association with particular applications and/or workloads.

Nearly two-thirds of current solid state storage users report that their organizations purchased the technology in order to alleviate performance challenges associated with a specific application: In other words, these applications are the "silver bullets" that vendors are always seeking. Pretty much every user has some application that can benefit from such a boost, but precisely what the application is will vary across users.

Planned solid state purchases are more likely to be for 'horizontal' infrastructural value.

More than half of potential solid state storage adopters do not believe that their organizations will deploy the technology as a means to address specific application performance challenges, but will use it more generally across workloads. This is--you guessed it!--the "silver lining" that applies to a broad spectrum of work. Since many users and applications don't need the marginal peak performance of solid state, it makes sense to use the resource to provide a broad boost across an entire environment. The "sense" is not just operational, but can very well be financial as well (by driving better utilization of, and freeing up the capacity of, spinning disk drives).

Users increasingly understand the value of solid state in virtualized environments.

Current users of solid state were more than twice as likely as potential adopters to single out I/O bottlenecks caused by server virtualization as the primary reason for their initial solid state storage adoption.

Solid state and automated tiered storage are linked.

Automated storage tiering supports the concept of--and drives the need for--data that is in higher demand to be aligned with a higher performing storage tier, such as solid state. It makes sense that a significant number of organizations (both current and potential users of solid state) have seen tiering serve as a catalyst for solid state storage adoption. Interestingly, nearly one-third of current solid state storage users report that the technology actually drove their initial deployment of automated tiered storage.

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