Solid-state storage has proven highly adept at working its way into enterprise environments, where its low operating costs and high throughput have improved storage performance across a wide range of applications.
Now, it seems we're starting to see the first signs of specialization in the industry, with new generations of SSDs aimed directly at specific users. A key example is cloud computing, which has a proven need for fast data turnaround and highly efficient data infrastructure.
Taiwan's Apacer Technology is one of the first to target the needs of cloud providers, launching the SAFD 25A device earlier this month. The unit provides up to 512 GB and 50,000 IOPS using the SATA 3.0 interface, putting it roughly on par with a 60-drive RAID array. The company hopes the device will appeal to service providers and traditional enterprises looking to build cloud infrastructure on the smallest possible footprint. It also features anti-shock and anti-vibration capabilities, and is available in both single-level and multi-level cell designs.
Also targeting the cloud is a company called SolidFire, which recently unveiled the all-SSD SF6010 primary storage system designed for multi-tenent application environments. The system provides up to 6 TB per node, which can be bumped up to 24 TB using various combinations of in-line deduplication, compression and thin provisioning. The company says deployments of up to 100 nodes are possible, providing an effective single-instance environment of 2.4 PB capable of 5 million IOPS. The company says it can give cloud providers a more reliable storage environment than standard systems through volume-level QoS controls designed specifically for scale-out, shared infrastructure.
Of course, what the cloud gives with one hand, it takes away with another. As David Gildeh, director of cloud services at data management firm Alfresco, explained to cloudpro.com recently, the more users come to rely on the cloud for collaboration and mobile sharing, the less need for local Flash storage. The trusty USB stick could quickly become a thing of the past as the industry gravitates to more secure and flexible storage. Some of this may be wishful thinking, of course, considering Alfresco is actively promoting the online version of its enterprise data management platform. But considering recent research indicating the cost of lost USB drives could be as high as $2.5 million per enterprise, the point is well taken.
Still, it could very well be that this is just another example of the cyclical nature of enterprise technology. As tech consultant Chris Evans notes, even a cursory glance at history shows the industry seesawing wildly between, say, distributed and centralized architectures. Right now, the trend is toward distributed, albeit with centralized management, so the fact that SSDs are pushing storage closer to the server, wherever it sits, could simply be the crest of a wave that is about to break before it rolls back out to sea.
Then again, there is every possibility that this time is different. The cloud seems poised to make a permanent change on IT infrastructure, and the need for higher performance at reduced cost isn't likely to go out of style anytime soon.
It could very well be that SSDs and the cloud will form the kind of symbiotic relationship that will propel the data industry to an entirely new state of being.