Still Waiting on SSDs

Arthur Cole

Solid state disk (SSD) technology headed into the new year with a lot of momentum, with backers saying it provides an ideal solution for many high-speed data applications even while the cost makes it unlikely to usher in wholesale replacement of all hard disks.

So far, though, uptake has been relatively modest, possibly a result of the faltering economy. But could there be something else behind the lack of enthusiasm? Perhaps that the technology still isn't quite ready for the enterprise?

Jimmy Daley, ISS marketing manager at Hewlett-Packard, certainly thinks so. In this interview with David Murphy at Tom's Hardware Guide, Daley points out a number of reasons why SSD deployments are still lackluster despite steadily improving price/performance ratios. Tops on the list are a lack of enterprise features, such as the ability to hot-swap them and poor write performance. And while SSDs are stackable, their high throughput can overwhelm many network components, particularly storage controllers, when used in tandem.

Many enterprises are still not sold on the total cost of ownership of SSDs, according to this article on Byte & Switch. Lower power consumption doesn't seem to have as much punch as it used to when weighed against the still-high acquisition costs. And many small and mid-sized organizations lack the expertise to manage an entirely new storage medium.

Still, it's a safe bet that vendors will come up with some ready solutions before too long. Some of the top talent in the computer industry is being drawn to SSDs, as evidenced by Fusion-io's recent landing of none other than Steve Wozniak as its new chief scientist. The company says it is closing in on 10 TB on a standard 4U server, with a new dual I/O memory module card that will effectively double throughput for an individual slot.

In the long-term, the outlook for SSDs remains strong. Research and Markets predicts 43 million units in place by 2013, with most of those going to high-performance and price-sensitive segments of the market. It also expects to see capacities increase from 16 GB to 256 GB by 2013.

If SSD rollout is a little slower than expected, there's certainly no reason to think that the technology is a dud. Quite the contrary, a little pause is common at the beginning of any technology cycle. And the fact is that SSDs simply provide too much of a boost to data throughput and performance to be ignored -- a fact that will become plainer to see as prices come down and installations go up.

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