SSDs on the rise, during SNW

It was the companies not at SNW who also made some waves through integrations

[Editor's note: I asked Jim Bagley, senior analyst at Storage Strategies NOW, for his impressions of the solid state drive space and the buzz at Storage Networking World and beyond.]

New faith in Storage Networking World

The need for speed at the storage level has been exacerbated by the latest generation of multi-core processors that spend most of their time waiting for storage devices to deliver. Virtualization has dramatically reduced the need for physical servers, but has only increased the demand on storage systems. Storage has increased capacity at the cost of access time. The funny thing is that this all occurred before, about 40 years ago when head-per-track drum memory was replaced by moving head disk memory. The former was fast but had a huge cost per bit (yes, bit). The latter was slow but had a better cost per bit. And so it all began.

At SNW, you had to stick around until Thursday morning to get a quick briefing on Sun's SSD strategy and products, but it was well worth it. In a nutshell, Sun has brand-new SSD integrations at the server motherboard, PCI-Express board level (like Fusion-io) and hybrid storage-area network (SAN) and network-attached storage (NAS) products. One of the keys to this technology is the ZFS file system, which automatically keeps hot data in the fastest parts of the storage system, be it dynamic RAM, motherboard SSD, PCI-Express SSD, SAN or NAS SSD and finally hard disk drives. The amount of effort and investment in these brand-new systems is overshadowed by Oracle's inability to properly launch the products to the storage industry. It is possible they do not understand what they have, or don't care. Stay tuned as we intend to increase coverage of these Sun products and gauge the puzzling approach to their promotion.

The following companies did not exhibit at SNW but their products were certainly there in both integrations and buzz:

Adaptec MaxIQ -- While not at SNW (shame) we must include in context one of the most innovative and clever approaches to acceleration that turns any Adaptec RAID controller into a hybrid SSD controller by adding some software and a special version of the Intel enterprise 32GB SSD. Simplicity is beauty, as the RAID controller writes everything to the hard disk drive array, and then, based on read frequency, moves data to the SSD. The result, verified by APPLABS, is a typical 10x improvement in IOPs. Not bad for something that lists for less than $2,000.

Pliant ESD -- Another SNW no-show, we love Pliant because it has really nailed the "drive format" device with both format and controller technology that will ease the implementation of SSDs in future products. After a long incubation, Pliant finally unveiled a truly innovative Serial Attached SCSI SSD in both 2.5" and 3.5" form factors. The 3.5" supports both 150GB and 300GB capacities and the 2.5" supports 150GB. The 3.5" format actually uses the additional space to improve throughput by accessing multiple flash chips. At a cost significantly below the premium brand (discussed below), we expect Pliant to be a major player at the drive format level. Prices are expected to be in the $20 to $25 per gigabyte range.

STEC -- Why show up at SNW when you own the OEM channel? STEC has "run the table" with the OEMs and has rightfully claimed the position of industry leader. While priced at a premium ($30 per gigabyte), STEC has delivered the devices that have passed the rigorous testing that the enterprise storage suppliers inflict. Next generation STEC devices look really good and we salute the quality and innovation delivered.

Learn more about this topic

STEC releases new Fibre Channel SSDs

Pliant rolls out SSDs

New faith in Storage Networking World


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