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How flash is changing storage …

And five vendors pushing the technology into wares for the enterprise

By , Network World
January 26, 2009 12:10 AM ET
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Network World - Flash-based solid-state memory quickly is becoming part of the enterprise's storage arsenal, and for good reason. Flash-based approaches provide better performance and consume less energy than systems relying on traditional rotating disk drives. You now can find solid-state memory embedded in servers, storage arrays and even in a newfangled disaster-recovery device. Here are five innovators.


Click through a slideshow for more product details


Axxana: Black boxes for stored data

This Israeli start-up has developed a unique approach to disaster recovery - one possible only because of flash memory, company founders say. Modeled on the concept of airplane black boxes, Axxana's 400-pound Phoenix is designed to survive natural disasters and terrorist attacks - basically anything short of a nuclear bomb. In addition, the Phoenix can transmit data wirelessly should the box be irretrievable after a disaster. (For such innovation, Axxana earns recognition as a start-up to watch for 2009.)

Standard rotating disk drives aren't robust enough for this type of application. "We didn't want to use mechanical devices that are sensitive to vibrations and shock," says CTO Alex Winokur. "If there is a sudden shock, the head can scratch the surface."

Axxana ruled out using dynamic random access memory (DRAM) because of the risk of losing data. Unlike flash, DRAM requires backup batteries to prevent data loss should the power go out.

The engineering team chose flash also because of its low power consumption. Axxana was careful not to generate too much heat inside the box. "It's a huge technical and mechanical problem to solve, really - how to isolate the box from the outside and dissipate enough heat from inside," Winokur says.

Axxana uses STEC flash drives, chosen for their resiliency, speed and 3.5-inch form factor. The drive capacity runs at 73GB to 300GB. That may not sound like much, but Phoenix's innovative design doesn't require much storage. The box is used in combination with asynchronous mirroring, which can replicate data to other sites at any distance. Some bits of data are lost during this process, and only those bits of data are stored on the Axxana system.

In beta now, Phoenix will be available at the end of this quarter, the company says. Target customers are in the financial services, healthcare, manufacturing, retail and government industries.

Axxana has not disclosed pricing, but says the cost will be in the six-figure range.

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