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Texas Memory Boosts Flash Memory for Servers

Texas Memory Systems today introduced the RamSan-20, which offers 450 GB of enterprise-grade flash memory on a single PCI-Express card that can snap into a server to increase application performance. The card uses single-level cell flash and can deliver 120,000 IOPS for random read operations and about 50,000 IOPS for random write operations, the company says.

Texas Memory president Woody Hutsell says the card is the highest-capacity PCI-E solid-state disk on the market and can provide users with an economical opportunity to increase performance for important applications, such as apps that rely heavily on internal RAM or small databases that can be stored on a few flash cards. "It is a little slower than RAM, but much faster than a hard drive. It is a way to extend server memory without taking the performance hit of a hard drive," he says.

Besides price, one of the biggest concerns about flash memory has been reliability. Hutsell says the RamSan-20 includes several features to increase reliability to make the product more appealing to enterprise customers, including onboard RAID, over-provisioning the card with extra cells, and pre-screening the SLC flash used in the cards. "We have overdesigned from a reliability point of view. You should have at least 12 years of use before you would wear it out," he says.

The market for SSD technology is getting confusing as enterprise storage vendors look to identify the best place to put the disks to get the best performance per dollar. It is showing up in servers, in storage arrays, and as replacement for hard disks. Part of the challenge is that SSD is much more expensive than hard disks on a per-gigabyte basis. But vendors encourage customers to measure the price on a per IOPS basis, where SSDs cost less. They also consume much less power than conventional hard drives.

Hutsell says part of the problem comes from some storage vendors selling flash as a replacement for hard disks in storage arrays, when it makes more sense to place it in servers. "In a RAID system, the cache and controllers are designed to handle the latency of a hard disk drive and have around five milliseconds to play with. When the flash backend can respond faster than cache, you are defeating the point of adding a really fast storage device," he says.

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