The Growing Field of SSDs

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EMC Corp. may have been first out of the gate with an enterprise-class solid-state drive (SSD), but it looks like the rest of the pack is ready to join the field.


The past week has seen a new round of start-ups and joint ventures aimed at developing flash and SSD technology expressly for high-end enterprise environments as opposed to traditional laptop and mobile device markets.


The newest player on the scene is Pliant Technology, led by Maxtor and Quantum co-founder Jim McCoy. The company is currently making the rounds of leading venture capitalists with plans for a new controller mechanism that will boost flash performance up to RAM-quality, with possible demo models out by the end of the year.


Even closer to launch is the SSD PRO 7000 system from Imation, jointly developed with controller technology from Mtron Co. The system is due out in the first quarter and boasts a maximum read speed of 120 MBps, with a write speed of 90 MBps and 0.1 ms random access.


According to industry observers, demand for SSDs among enterprise users is white hot. Much of the interest is coming from financial services and other high-data environments where the higher cost of SSDs versus hard disk drives is outweighed by the significant speed advantage of flash. A typical HDD can manage perhaps 150 IOPS, while SSDs top out at 30,000.


All indications are that SSDs are about to see explosive growth in the enterprise, with cost per GB sure to fall due both to economies of scale and reductions in silicon and component pricing. Mechanical hard drives will still have the edge when it comes to raw capacity for some time to come, but SSDs should fit the bill for those with a need for speed.