SSDs at the Enterprise Door

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All signs continue to point a substantial influx of solid state disks (SSDs) in enterprise settings starting next year, but to be fair, SSDs have been knocking on the enterprise door for some time now and have yet to cross the threshold.


Still, experts are saying that the reliability and durability issues that have dogged the technology in the past have been solved and that the sheer speed and low operating cost of SSDs make them a compelling solution going forward. IBM put an exclamation point on the speed issue recently with a demonstration of a Fusion-io array that scaled up to 4 TB and had a sustained data rate upwards of 1 million IOPS.


SSDs now have the blessing of all the top vendors and many of the leading industry associations. The latest to join the movement is the Storage Networking Industry Association, which just launched the Solid State Storage Initiative (SSSI) aimed at greasing the wheels for SSD in both commercial and consumer environments. The group is charged with spearheading a range of programs focused on education, technical and business development efforts, as well as marketing and implementation.


Enthusiasm for SSDs is high this year due to several key developments, according to storage consultant Ray Lucchesi. To increase write speeds, vendors have turned to data path parallelism and integrated, parity-protected DRAM caches. Meanwhile, NAND burnout is giving way to new single-level cell (SLC) technologies capable of half-a-million write cycles before failure. Lucchesi says to expect SSDs in data warehouse applications first, where they can vastly improve analytic and transactional processes.


That's provided SSD performance holds up in the real world, according to Jeiming Zhu writing on the HP Communities blog. For instance, power consumption is greatly affected by the type of application, the I/O access pattern and the storage configuration. Expect usage to more than triple when SSDs are integrated into hybrid environments. And MBTF ratings can swing wildly depending on whether you're measuring usable vs. raw capacity or the citing the underlying flash chip number or a drive-level validation.


One thing is certain, though: the vendor community is bullish on SSDs and leading suppliers are already rolling them into their own data centers. How they fare will determine if they are truly ready for the enterprise.


But even if SSD's time has come, there's no reason to believe it spells the end of disk any more than disk spelled the end of tape.