Even though solid state technology had a low-key presence at Storage Networking World in Orlando this week, expect it to begin playing a larger role in the enterprise in the coming years, provided vendors continue to bump up capacities and data integrity capabilities.
About the only major solid state disk (SSD) introduction at the show was STEC Inc.'s new Zeus-IOPS device, the first SSD with native 4 Gb Fibre Channel support. The drive could prove a watershed if its expanded connectivity capabilities draw the interest of server and storage OEMs for integration into their major platforms. The drive is available in sizes ranging from 73 GB to 512 GB, with top random read/write performance rated at 17,000 IOPS.
Ask most SSD vendors, and they'll tell you that the devices are primed to make a big push into the enterprise. Word on the street is that most of the top server and storage vendors are eager to put SSDs into use to take advantage of their extremely low operating costs.
Depending on the design of the SSD, those operational savings will outweigh the higher upfront costs, where HDDs still hold a cost-per-GB advantage. That's why it would be a mistake to make simple head-to-head comparisons between solid state and hard disk drives. Intel's Richard Coulson argues that when you look at operational costs, such as IOPs/watt, SSDs are light years more efficient than hard drives, at least in the notebook.
Still, early adopters should be wary of some of the problems still plaguing SSDs. IDC's Jeff Janukowicz said beside the higher price, SSDs could burn out faster in the higher-performance environments of most data centers. Enterprise drives tend to hit six-figure cycles much faster than laptop drives.
Nevertheless, Janukowicz says IDC is very bullish on SSDs in the enterprise, particularly if the need to lower energy consumption increases.
It's also quite possible that SSD technology is evolving even before it sees widespread deployment in the enterprise. Last week, if you'll recall, a company called Fusion-io introduced the ioDrive, which packs up to 320 GB of NAND flash storage into a PCIe card. The company claims its design does away with network elements like switches, RAID controllers, HBAs and the like, using the old Direct-Attached Storage (DAS) model to provide SAN performance at low cost.
Few people are expecting solid state drives to take over the enterprise, but it seems likely that as demands on the data center continue to mount, a more diverse infrastructure will arise aimed at addressing an increasingly complicated workload.