High-Capacity SSDs Pushing to Tier 1 and Beyond

Arthur Cole
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Five Data Storage Predictions for 2012

Flash storage has taken a kind of top-down approach when it comes to the enterprise.

From the beginning, its chief benefits were transfer speed and lower operating costs, which made it an ideal solution for Web serving and other Tier 0 applications. It was for that reason that most storage experts knew it would never completely replace disk or even tape for less critical applications like backup and archiving, where capacity rules the roost.

That may soon change, however, as higher-capacity solid-state storage solutions push the technology to multi-terabyte levels, allowing it to vie for Tier 1 applications and beyond.

At CES recently, OCZ showed off a pair of new drives that should make storage architects sit up and take notice. The Z-Drive R54 CloudServ RM161 delivers 16 TB on a single PCIe card, coupled with transfer speeds up to 6.5 GBps to enable 1.4 million IOPS. Meanwhile, the Chiron 4 TB SATA 3.0 device provides up to 4 TB in a 3.5-inch form factor while still maintaining an impressive 560 MBps transfer rate and 100,000 IOPS. The Chiron 4 can be deployed in rackmount server environments for up to 96 TB of bulk storage.

At the same time, BitMicro has announced plans for a new controller that will support SSDs up to 5 TB. The TALINO-DE (Translation and Linking of Input-Output Nodes - Device Edition) is a multi-processor controller platform that provides for parallel access to individual Flash chips. The system supports SATA, SAS and PCI Express, so there is no need for bridging technology or additional controllers to integrate into legacy environments. The company has yet to release final specs, but is talking about 400,000 random write IOPS.

Still unknown with these high-capacity systems is the price, however. Multi-tier SSD deployments will be welcome in most enterprises only if the price per GB is reasonable. As a guide, the best high-capacity SSD I could find is Victorinox' latest Swiss Army knife, which comes with the usual blade, scissors, screwdriver and, should the need arise, a 1 TB memory stick with USB and eSATA connectivity for $3,000. That's retail, of course, so some of the larger storage consumers out there can probably do better than that.

Some firms are already targeting solid-state storage at Tier 1 applications. Violin Memory, for example, says its 6000 Series Flash array offers lower TCO than most spinning media solutions, scales into the petabyte range and provides throughput up to 1 million IOPS. It also features many of the functions found on traditional arrays, such as hot-swappable components, no single point of failure and full redundancy.

Of all the enterprise technologies affected by virtualization and cloud computing, storage is most in need of a makeover. With productivity defined more by the ability to move data from place to place rather than to support larger and larger volumes in-house, SSDs already offered the ability to push storage into next-generation data environments. But now that serious capacity has been added to the mix as well, it's not so hard to imagine that SSDs could, in fact, take over the data center relatively quickly.

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