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SSD, Scale-Out Architecture To Grow

As SSD capacity continues to increase and prices drop, use of SSD for enterprise Tier 1 applications is going to become more and more common. At the same time, enterprises are adopting scale-out architectures. It's an exciting time to be involved in enterprise storage.

Moore's Law is definitely in effect when it comes to solid-state storage, and as the technology and market mature, the storage world is moving toward a place where SSDs are not just silicon disks but full solid-state systems, says Kurt Marko, a regular contributor to Network Computing and InformationWeek, as well as the author of the new Research: State of Storage 2012 InformationWeek report.

SSD technology will become much more diverse in its applications, with everything from internal cards such as the ones currently available from Fusion-io to complete solid-state Tier 1 systems that will look like a shared array on the outside but are nothing but silicon on the inside, he says. The growth of the SSD market really boils down to price, and the price per bit of solid-state storage has gotten to the point where it's not prohibitively expensive, although obviously still more expensive than commodity drives. Fact: SSD is past the novelty stage.

"Not only has it become the default storage medium for the growing army of mobile devices, it's rapidly displacing magnetic disks on laptops from the MacBook Air to Intel's new Ultrabooks," Marko notes in the report.

The vast majority of enterprises currently using or planning to use SSDs are using them for databases (61% of the 166 respondents who noted they are using or evaluating SSDs), followed by usage for improving overall server performance (57%) and automated tiered storage (34%). Other notable reasons included technical applications (29%), reducing power consumption (27%), video/multimedia editing (21%) and other transaction-heavy software (26%).

SSDs are replacing disks in high-throughput, high-IOPS systems, which are already very expensive. To get the throughput the applications need, enterprises typically need 10 to 12 SSDs in parallel, which provides an order or two of magnitude in improved performance. The price/performance is driving that adoption, he says.

Earlier this month, enterprise storage leader EMC unveiled VFCache, the PCIe/flash-based server cache technology formerly known as Project Lightning. Mark Peters, senior analyst, Enterprise Strategy Group, isn't sure about EMC's claim that this signifies the next era of enterprise flash technology, but he says this is EMC, and so the move is extremely significant for the entire industry. "It is now blessed directly by one of the industry giants, and that signifies that solid state will prevail as a key element for the foreseeable future in storage ecosystems. This matters to EMC, to other big vendors, to start-ups and, last but certainly not least, to users."

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