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4/17/2009
02:33 PM
George Crump
George Crump
Commentary
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SSD And The Infrastructure

In a recent blog on InformationWeek's sister site Internet Evolution, David Vellante's "Flash Drives Set to Give Internet a Performance Boost" suggests that fibre drives might be replaced by flash drives within the next three years. In our presentation last year on "The State of SSD" we made a similar prediction. Since David and I agr

In a recent blog on InformationWeek's sister site Internet Evolution, David Vellante's "Flash Drives Set to Give Internet a Performance Boost" suggests that fibre drives might be replaced by flash drives within the next three years. In our presentation last year on "The State of SSD" we made a similar prediction. Since David and I agree that this is a forgone conclusion, what will the impact of a rapid acceleration be on the infrastructure?SSDs today come in two form factors. The first and still most common is something that is implemented as a fibre channel connection offered as stand alone devices by companies like Texas Memory Systems, Solid Data Systems and Solid Access or as drive modules inside an existing storage array like those offered by EMC and others. In the past stand alone devices were attached via a fibre channel connection mostly for performance but as the capacity of the devices has grown the cost advantages to sharing SSD storage across multiple server workloads has also increased.

The result is more servers accessing an area of storage that is increasing in capacity but unlike mechanical hard drives, it can handle all the performance demands that can be thrown at it. For the most part the only bottleneck is the connection between the server and the SSD itself.

The challenge of this bottleneck is one of the justifications that makers of the other form factor PCI-E attached SSD make, move the fast device as close as possible to the application. Suppliers like Fusion-io, Violin Memory and again Texas Memory Systems make PCI-E attached appliances or cards that virtually eliminate the bottleneck discussion. Certainly there are other advantages with PCI-E based SSD, especially PCI-E SSD cards that are bringing the entry price for SSD's to record lows.

These cards have a lot of value for application specific performance problems. They also will be attractive to those environments that could benefit by a performance boost but don't have a SAN or don't want to worry about implementing the SSD on the SAN.

The desire to share SSD is going to continue, especially as capacities continue to increase. Within the next few months I expect to see 6TB plus SSD systems that fit in less than 4U for less than $200k. 6TB's of SSD begs to be shared, and today that is going to happen on a fibre channel SAN. While the price point is coming down, the speed is increasing and you are going to want to put that on the fastest SAN possible so you will see a full return on your performance investment; today that is 8GB FC.

The interesting ramification is the impact that SSD is going to have on the FCoE vs. FC debate. That will be the topic of our next entry, "Will SSD obsolete FCoE".

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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.

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