More On-Server SSDs: Is This the End of Storage Networking?

Arthur Cole

SSDs are marching into the enterprise, but perhaps even more significantly, they are extending their presence directly onto some of the most popular server platforms, offering local storage in the same form factors as mechanical drives but with less heat generation and lower overall power consumption.

Although it's still too early to tell, the trend could prove to be a harbinger of a major shift in server/storage architectures -- one that significantly reduces or even eliminates the costly and complex storage networking infrastructures that have been the mainstay of most data centers since the advent of the storage array.

IBM made its first major move toward local SSD storage with a new set of drives for both the Power and System x servers. The Power6 line will see 69 GB 2.5- and 3.5-inch SSDs using the SAS interface, while new System x systems will have a number of optional 50 GB SATA drives available. While the capacities are relatively light, the company says that the SSDs can improve transaction performance on databases like the DB2 by as much as 800 percent, while cutting energy consumption some 80 percent.

But while those sound like impressive numbers, there are a lot of ways to calculate the true value of enterprise-class SSDs. ITWire's Alex Zaharov-Ruett points out that those percentages only apply to IBM's non-SSD platforms, and even then, the improved performance comes at a very steep upfront cost -- anywhere from $50 to $145 per GB. In today's economy, how many enterprises will be able to shell out that kind of dough for a future performance benefit?

Still, competitive pressures being what they are, many enterprises are no doubt looking to deploy SSDs for fear of being caught behind the technological curve. In that vein, it's important to note that SSDs have only just scratched the surface in overall enterprise storage deployments. Gartner estimates that about 843,000 enterprise-class SSDs shipped in 2008, compared to nearly 46 million hard drives. The firm estimates that SSD costs will be 10 to 20 times that of conventional storage at least through 2012.

And while speed is SSD's claim to fame, it's not likely that server-based SSDs will begin to seriously disrupt the data center storage market until the capacities come up a little more. But with top vendors like IBM and EMC out to protect their traditional storage systems as much as possible, any movement on that front will likely have to come from the outside -- say from a company like Dolphin Interconnect Solutions. While the company doesn't have an on-server system, it offers the next best thing: a PCIe-based direct-attached SSD system that scales up to 4 TB. The single-rack StorExpress unit is designed for clustered database, Web service and industrial applications and can deliver up to 2.8 GBps of sustained bandwidth, without having to jump through the usual SAS or SATA hoops. You can even cluster multiple StorExpresses for use across multiple servers.

While the idea of unlimited local storage is intriguing, the fact is that enterprise storage needs have grown so diverse over the years that one technology will never be able to satisfy all applications. SSDs are likely to become the high-performance tier in a broad infrastructure that will include remote and local disk- and tape-based systems handling everything from application and data loads to backup and archiving. Having the latest technology is fine, but it shouldn't get in the way of building the most robust and fully functional storage infrastructure possible.

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May 26, 2009 4:13 AM Phillip Phillip  says:

I disagree. The entire idea of SAN (FC, iSCSI or IB) is to consolidate storage  and centralize the storage. This ensures that backups can occur within maintenance windows that is acceptable. Also it curbs pricing to a single vendor of Storage when it is no longer necessary for servers to have their own storage so it can boot.

SMB's will be a more logical reasons as they don't need much infrastructure to run their business.  SSD's will have it's place in Enterprise storage but it is not cheap to replace all drives just yet. It be good for cache drives and storage purposes.

For individual server I see SSD's be a great way to boast performance but if your budget is not going to allow the drive then go back to using cheap SATA drives. They are good but not as fast and efficient as SSD's are.

one other thing remember the drive for SAN came from many systems have internal drives and now since many vendors support booting from their storage it make no sense to purchase internal drives. You might want one just for trouble-shooting purposes but that is about it.


Good for SMB's but not for enterprise way of thinking.

Mid-Range to large Enterprise will see far better value in large storage

not a single drive.

The large these SSD's get the higher their price far more than FC or SCSI


May 26, 2009 11:55 AM Alok Sharma Alok Sharma  says:

What I think that impact may be more on smaller & medium range storage networking components, instead of Enterprise/High-end range.

Soon storage/disk modules of SSDs for blade servers would be available from SUN, HP, IBM etc.

Also FC is getting challenges from 10GbEth & IB, so there will be a new sets of SAN components soon be coming.

But the most important thing is to keep in mind that Data at all levels is growing at an exhorbitant speed as well as acceleration. This exploding of data would be absorbed by the new sets of SAN components.


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