New SSDs Pushing Endurance, Flexibility

Arthur Cole
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Changing the Way You Purchase Storage

Ensure that IT has the flexibility to build and efficiently run a shared infrastructure.

These days, it's the rare data center that has not deployed solid state storage in one form or another. But while few argue against the efficacy of SSDs in enterprise settings, the increasing variety of form factors and storage cell configurations are making deployment decisions just as complicated as anything found in traditional storage infrastructure.

The needs of enterprise users continue to drive solid state development at a basic level. One of the top priorities is extending the useful life of Flash in highly active environments. STEC recently updated its XeusIOPS device with an Extreme Endurance (XE) version capable of 30 full-capacity writes per day for its entire five-year lifespan. The MLC unit utilizes the company's CellCare system and an improved ASIC-based SSD controller to maintain data integrity over multiple writes. With these in hand, STEC says it can deliver nearly 33 petabytes over the working life of a 600 GB drive.

And like their magnetic cousins, SSDs are also pushing higher capacities into smaller form factors. OCZ Technology Group just released the Talos 2 SAS device, which delivers a full TB in a 2.5-inch format. The drive incorporates OCZ's Virtualized Controller Architecture 2.0 system that provides for intelligent complex command queuing and queue balancing algorithms that help push random transactional performance to 70,000 4k IOPS and mixed workload performance to 42,000 8k IOPS. It also features dual ports for improved data integrity and the DataWrite Assurance Protection system to cover power losses.

Even smaller form factors are finding their way onto mid-level servers like IBM's System x and BladeCenter platforms. The company is offering 1.8-inch eXFlash drives on System x machines in capacities ranging from 50 to 200 GB. In fact, Big Blue is offering price breaks and a free backplane for systems configured with eight drives or more. It's a deal that has The Register's Timothy Prickett Morgan wondering why higher-end Power Systems are not worthy of similar consideration.

At the same time, Seagate is not giving up on its Momentus XT hybrid drive, which the company recently bolstered with 8 GB SLC Flash modules. The 750 GB drive is built on a 2.5-inch form factor and features a 6 Gbps SAS interface for as little as $245. The drive also features increased areal density and improved data algorithms to speed up data allocation and boost overall performance. It's still a question as to whether enterprise users will opt for hybrid technology over full SSD performance, but if they do Seagate will effectively own the market as theirs is the last hybrid standing.

Unfortunately, decisions surrounding the deployment and integration of these technologies are as varied as the environments they encounter. That SSDs will largely constitute an additional storage tier reserved for the most time-sensitive data and applications is all but certain. But determining the appropriate placement in actual working environments will be a challenge.

As is often the case, new technology comes off the drawing board with only vague ideas as to how it is to be implemented. As automation takes over many of the day-to-day operations, IT will be increasingly tasked with these and other architectural/infrastructure responsibilities.

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