SSDS for the Enterprise, Ready or Not


A lot of people are predicting 2009 will be the year for solid-state disks in the enterprise. One thing is certain, there will certainly be many different types available.


Development of enterprise-class SSDs is ramping up amid evidence that enterprise spending is likely to hold its own in the coming recession provided it goes to cost-saving technologies. SSDs clearly fit into this category, providing substantial storage using only a fraction of the energy.


Objective Analysis predicts SDDs will replace HDDs at a rate of 10:1 very quickly before settling in to a more manageable 3:1 ratio. This means the use of hard disk technology will erode faster than SDDs can replace them. The firm expects enterprise SDD shipments to increase 100-fold between now and 2013, generating revenues of more than $1 billion.


Besides being easier on the electric bill, SSDs play well into the current enterprise obsession with speed. Getting data in and out of storage is emerging as the primary consideration at many organizations, eclipsing raw capacity in the process. Micron is said to be pushing the speed envelope the farthest, claiming it can achieve up to 1 GBps by using a PCIe interface rather than traditional SATA. The company says it has a two-card device with 16 flash channels capable of hitting 200,000 IOPS, which would nearly double a similar system developed by FusionIO.


Companies that aren't ready to approach that kind of performance, however, are finding other ways to differentiate themselves from the field. For BitMicro, the goal is to forge compatibility with existing storage infrastructures. With the new Altima line, the idea was to build in 4 Gb Fibre Channel connectivity onto a 3.5-inch form factor. In that way, the drive can easily slide into legacy 1, 2 and 4 Gb Fibre Channel environments, offering a top transfer rate of 230 MBps and 55,000 IOPS.


Still a big unknown is how quickly Western Digital plans to get in on the action, now that its chief rival, Seagate, is prepping an enterprise SSD for the middle of next year. WD's Richard Rutledge was rather coy on the subject recently, telling The Register that the company will make a move at the "appropriate opportunity."


Clearly, expectations are high for SSDs. The supply will certainly be there. All that's needed is the demand.