SSDs Putting Appliances in the Fast Lane

Arthur Cole

Solid-state disks (SSDs) have made major inroads into enterprise storage over the past decade or so, boosting application performance and expanding overall capacity at a time when data requirements are shooting through the roof.


So it's no surprise, then, that we're seeing a growing number of storage appliances turning to SSDs as a means to add cache memory and kick throughput into high gear. More and more, the combination is being touted as a solution for mission-critical applications, for which the latency of a traditional SAN can often have a major impact on the bottom line.


FalconStor Software, for instance, has turned to Violin Memory to add an SSD component to its NSS SAN Accelerator appliance. Violin's 1010 flash memory unit can scale all the way to 4 TB with less than 100us latency, although configurations of that size are unlikely. The combo is intended as a cache solution, with the idea that an "economic amount" of flash storage is enough to double SAN performance, while the ability to perform simultaneous reads and writes boosts throughput for heavy-load application environments.


If it's capacity you want, companies like WhipTail are ready to oblige. The Racerunner Tier 0 SSD appliance is available in up to 6 TB configurations and claims an up to 30-fold increase in application performance, all while cutting power and space requirements nearly in half. The company recently expanded its presence in Europe, where it is pitching the device as a solution optimized for HPC and VDI deployments.


And as I mentioned yesterday, Teradata is said to be pursuing an SSD appliance for its warehousing portfolio. The company has said it could vastly improve analytics and other warehousing functions using the high-I/O capabilities of solid state. The system would most likely come out as an adjunct to the new Active Enterprise Data Warehouse platform announced earlier this month.


The one drawback with SSD appliances is that they require a fairly sophisticated management system to determine which data is ripe for the faster throughput. Some of the latest models, however, have that capability built in. A company called Dataram unveiled the XcelaSAN last fall featuring a data analysis module that can automatically determine which data needs the most acceleration as soon as it hits cache memory. The unit can deliver 450,000 IOPS at 3 GBps, but comes at a premium price: $65,000.


Appliances have always been about speed -- rapid deployment combined with rapid provisioning. With SSDs on board, that speed can be extended to actual operations.



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