Solid-State Storage and PCIe: Fast and Furious for the Enterprise

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Five SSD Predictions for 2012

The real impact of solid-state drives will be felt the second half of this year.

Of the three pillars that make up data center infrastructure (servers, storage and networking), none face greater change than storage.

Aside from the fact that more and more business units are turning to the cloud to accommodate increasing data loads, internal storage infrastructure, typically SAN and/or NAS, is starting to look particularly shaky as the need for speed and flexibility overtake raw capacity on the list of top priorities.

Two of the major disrupters are solid-state storage and the PCIe bus. Taken separately, they are powerful components within legacy enterprise environments. But as I mentioned a few weeks ago, they have the power to remake those environments into integrated compute/storage clusters that are not only cheaper and less complicated than traditional storage networks, but offer greater flexibility as enterprises embrace Big Data and the cloud.

Since then, a number of developments have come out to make the SSD/PCIe combo even more compelling for the enterprise. One is the new Kilimanjaro platform developed by OCZ Technology and Marvell. Set to debut in the new Z-Drive R5, the platform provides a high degree of scalability and system redundancy while eliminating traditional SAN components like the storage controller. The R5 will offer up to 12 TB of capacity and will support VMware ESX and ESXi environments, as well as Linux, Windows Server 08 and OS X.

Meanwhile, Fusion-io has added a new component to its ioMemory subsystem that cuts SSD latency even further by streamlining the link between the server CPU and stored data. The Auto Commit Memory system bypasses the server operating system where software instruction cycles and other processes can hamper data delivery. The company recently showed the system in San Francisco where it hit 1 billion IOPS across eight HP ProLiant servers.

PCIe is so beneficial to SSD platforms that vendors are eager to bring the technology in house. Micron Technology, for example, recently acquired Virtensys, which specializes in PCIe virtualization. This is a key move for Micron in that it allows local storage to be pooled across multiple servers. In clustered environments, this increased flexibility allows for the kind of dynamic load balancing and data flexibility that will be commonplace in the cloud.

Solid-state storage still costs a premium over hard disk technology, but that disparity is shrinking every day and is expected to accelerate in 2012. And the fact is that modern data environments require speed more than anything else, which the SSD/PCIe combo delivers in spades.