Will SANs Soon Be Obsolete?

Arthur Cole

To all SAN managers reading this: I want you to get up, right now, and take a look at all of your disk drives, switches, RAID controllers, HBAs, caching appliances and all that cabling and customized software. Finished? Good. Now imagine all that stuff becoming obsolete in a few short years.

 

That's the claim being made by a Utah startup called Fusion-io, which just launched a NAND Flash card called the ioDrive that the company says offers a fully embedded SAN in a PCIe slot. The device operates either as local storage or storage cache and is available in 40 GB to 640 GB configurations.

 

The card is built on the company's proprietary ioMemory architecture, which aims to level the performance differences between memory and storage. The company says it is rated at 100,000 IOPS per card, while delivering sustained read and write rates of 800 Mbps and 600 Mbps, respectively.

 

The device does require a change in the way operating systems move and copy block storage. Under present designs, a 640 GB card will swamp any I/O subsystem, but by moving block storage structures to a higher OS level, perhaps through address offsets, Fusion-io says it should have no problem delivering a 20 TB storage farm within the same rack that holds the server.

 

Naturally, the card does not come cheap. At about $19,000 apiece, that works out to about $30 per GB, about 15 times the cost of typical disk storage. But when you consider that a typical SAN holds racks of disks, plus associated switches, arrays and other gear, total cost per GB is usually $80 or more.


 

Right now, the ioDrive is making the trade show rounds aboard an HP BladeSystem c-Class enclosure, but it could be a year or more before the OS issues are worked out. The company is said to be working with Microsoft and the Linux community, although there's no word yet on when a working solution will be available.

 

In the meantime, keep maintaining those SANS. But if things go the way Fusion-io expects, that may become a lost art before too long.



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