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Moreover, flash "consumes one-fifth the power and is a hundred times faster [than rotating disk drives]," Fowler says. "The fact that it's not the same dollars per gigabyte is perfectly OK."
Neovest measured speed increases of tenfold and more over Serial Attached SCSI, while saving money on memory costs. "Most of the savings come from the reduction of system memory," Farmer says. "Normally these servers we're testing them on require 64 gigabytes of system memory. We can pretty much cut that in half, so we don't have to buy as large of a platform."
Solid-state technology, including flash memory, is certainly on the upswing, with IDC predicting 76% annual shipment growth through 2012 in a market that generated nearly $400 million in revenue in 2007. Fowler predicts that the majority of organizations building I/O-intensive applications will use some form of flash within a year.
But EMC notes that rotating disks aren't going to fall by the wayside any time soon. Currently, Fibre Channel storage is used primarily for high-performance applications, and Serial Advanced Technology Attachment (SATA) drives — a less expensive alternative to Serial Attached SCSI — are used when high capacity is the main need, Wambach says. Most data is accessed only rarely, so high-cost flash drives are usually unnecessary, he says.
"There is a relatively small percentage of capacity that can be justified on flash drives today," Wambach says. "What you'll see in the future is that Fibre Channel capacity is going to rapidly diminish as a percentage of overall capacity. You'll see SATA drives increase and you'll see Flash drives increase."
EMC has seen demand cut across a wide swath of use cases, including credit card transactions, financial markets and law enforcement agencies that need to do extremely fast searches. "What we found is that in almost any industry you look at, there are applications that are response time limited," Wambach says.
But some customers may be a bit too ambitious, and should carefully consider which applications really need the high speeds of flash, Fowler says. "Some people are asking us to do Oracle databases 100% on flash," he says. "I'm a little skeptical myself. Most peoples' read and write activities don't need to be full bore on every piece of data."
Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.