Five innovative flash-based products for enterprise storage

Storage on a flash

Flash memory quickly is becoming part of the enterprise's storage arsenal, and for good reason: Although it's more expensive than rotating disk drives, flash offers faster performance and consumes far less energy. You now can find flash embedded in servers and storage arrays -- and even in a newfangled disaster-recovery device. Take a look.

Axxana\'s Phoenix system

Flash use: The system encrypts data and uses a flash array to store information that would be lost during conventional asynchronous mirroring.

Other system details:

  • Offers 73G to 300GB of drive capacity.

  • Black box weighs 400 lbs.; designed to survive natural disasters and other catastrophic events.

  • Transmits data wirelessly if the box can't be found after a disaster.

  • Asynchronous mirroring allows for long-distance data replication.

  • System comprises the black box, data-collection and processing software, monitoring and management software, plus data-recovery management software for use at remote back-up site.

Pricing: Pricing not specified, but in the six figures (product still in beta).

Read more about the Phoenix system.

EMC\'s Symmetrix DMX-4 solid-state disks

Flash use : NAND flash-based solid-state disks (SSD) offer an alternative to hard disks, primarily for intense online-transaction processing and ultrafast data retrieval.

Other flash-drive details:

  • Fit in a standard disk carrier and can be added without causing a disruption.

  • Are manageable from same array as hard disks, though data does not move automatically from one type of storage to another within the system.

  • Deliver I/O operations per second (IOPS) equivalent to 30 15,000rpm 300GB drives.

  • Use less than two-thirds of the power traditional disk drives do.

  • Offered in 73GB and 146GB versions.

Pricing and availability: Symmetrix is priced at $200,000 for about 10TB; customers adding flash to the array must buy at least four 73GB drives; available since early 2008. (In addition, EMC now offers SSDs for midrange Clariion arrays.)

Read more about enterprise flash drives.

Listen to a podcast about enterprise flash.

Fusion-io\'s ioSAN

Flash use: Combines a PCI Express card loaded with flash memory and two network interface ports to make flash memory available to all networked servers.

Other ioSAN card details:

  • Uses same form factor as Fusion-io's ioDrive, a direct-attached enterprise SSD.
  • Shares memory space using a standards-based memory-speed protocol over InfiniBand or 10-Gigabit Ethernet links.

  • Introduces less than 2 microseconds of latency, according to the company.

  • Multiple ioSAN cards can be aggregated into what appears as one logical unit number.

Pricing and availability: In beta until later this year; pricing not available yet.

Read more: Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak joins Fusion-io board

Spansion\'s EcoRAM

Flash use: Flash memory intended for embedding in servers to speed such read-intensive applications as Internet search.

Other EcoRAM details:

  • Replaces dynamic random-access memory as main system memory.

  • Uses NOR flash, which reads data 100 times faster than the more commonly used NAND flash.

  • Standard x86 servers will be able to house 256GB to 1MB.

Pricing and availability: EcoRAM-outfitted servers are expected to ship this quarter.

Read more about Spansion's EcoRAM plans.

Texas Memory Systems\' RamSan-5000

Flash use: Uses flash-memory-based SSD in a system that can process 1 million IOPS at a response time of less than 1 msec.

Other RamSan-5000 details:

  • Combines 20TB of RAID-protected flash memory with a RAM cache of as much as 640GB.

  • Delivers as much as 20Gbps of read or write bandwidth using Fibre Channel or InfiniBand interfaces.

  • Comprises 10 of the company's smaller RamSan-500 arrays, each of which delivers 100,000 IOPS.

  • Requires 3,000 watts of power and occupies 40U of rack space.

Pricing and availability: A 1 million IOPS-capable RamSan-5000 with 20TB of RAID-protected flash memory costs roughly $1.5 million. It is available now.

Read more about Texas Memory's RamSan-5000.

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