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Speed Is The SSD 'Killer App'

In a recent blog entry I provided a time line on when I thought SSD would become the dominant storage type for what is currently the active storage tier. One of the key enablers of this will be the increasing need for speed and mechanical hard drives' lack of ability to deliver it in a cost- effective manner.
In a recent blog entry I provided a time line on when I thought SSD would become the dominant storage type for what is currently the active storage tier. One of the key enablers of this will be the increasing need for speed and mechanical hard drives' lack of ability to deliver it in a cost- effective manner.Over the next five years, Solid State Disk in both forms (Flash and DRAM) will continue to come down in price and increase in capacity, but so will mechanical hard disks. What I think is unlikely is that mechanical hard disks will become substantially faster in that time frame. While we may see 20,000 RPM hard drives, I doubt we will see them used in widespread adoption.

On the path to solving performance bottlenecks caused by mechanical drive limitations, customers have tried 15,000 RPM drives and short stroking drives. Companies like Compellent Technologies and 3PAR Data have resolved the shortcomings of those techniques by enabling wide striping, which is a very viable alternative to SSD. Despite the capabilities of wide striping, the zero latent performance of SSD may eventually be required by many data centers.

Today there are specific applications that benefit from SSD solutions like those from Texas Memory Systems, Solid Data, and Violin Memory. The use case today is typically a very specific bottleneck within the data center. Over the next few years these applications will need more and more performance and they will be joined by additional applications that, as they grow, will need better performance than the traditional mechanical hard drive can deliver. What I have seen is once a customer accelerates one application with SSD, they try something else.

Speed is contagious. Once a customer accelerates one application with SSD, they try another application, most times seeing a performance increase there as well, making further investment in the technology an easier internal sale. The increase in the size of the SSD market has lead to the traditional storage vendors like EMC, IBM, and HP to enter the market. Their entrance will accelerate the price decline, increase the level of testing different workloads, and further broaden the market.

The next key driver of SSD will be the further development of the Archive Tier. Which we will examine tomorrow...

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George Crump is founder of Storage Switzerland, an analyst firm focused on the virtualization and storage marketplaces. It provides strategic consulting and analysis to storage users, suppliers, and integrators. An industry veteran of more than 25 years, Crump has held engineering and sales positions at various IT industry manufacturers and integrators. Prior to Storage Switzerland, he was CTO at one of the nation's largest integrators.