By Jim Hankins
Recently, EMC and Sun made some high profile announcements on their Solid State Disk (SSD) products, touting SSD's immediate adoption in enterprise server and storage applications. Dave Donatelli, a senior exec at EMC, went so far as to predict that high-end flash drives will replace high-end hard drives in 2 years. Is this "The End For Disk Drives?" So will disk drives turn into dinosaurs?
While I'm skeptical on Dave's claims (didn't EMC also claim that tape is dead), I am confident that we will out ship EMC in both revenue and units on SSD in the coming years. We are bullish on SSD technology for certain workloads and applications, but don't expect it to replace high end disk drives in the enterprise any time soon. And I'll make a video of all the Around the Storage Block bloggers singing several choruses of "EMC is right about SSD" and post it to the HP Storage Blog if the above prediction does comes true by the end of 2010.
In addition to standard disk drive interfaces, solid state technology is available in PCIe bus interfaces as well as memory interfaces. This makes solid state technology a much more attractive application for servers at the moment. Uses such as fast booting, capacity limited SSD for Non-volatile RAM, and other options will lead to server integration of SSD in the enterprise market a lot quicker than that of storage arrays.
Here are some additional opinions you might consider on market adoption rate of SSDs in the enterprise.
As is the case with many new technologies, caution must be exercised to distill the underlying value out of the propaganda. It is common to see bold claims backed up by specially chosen "real world" examples. Customers should really look for standards-based testing that clearly validates claims of benefits from SSD use.
SSD devices have complex firmware that is designed to ensure both endurance and performance. In our experience, these devices must be rigorously tested and often require several iterations of refinement to make them sufficiently robust to satisfy enterprise application requirements. This, coupled with interconnects, protocols and the relative immaturity of the underlying flash technology gives rise to the real potential for growing pains common with emerging technologies.
We're also concerned that customers may be disappointed with the actual performance improvements experienced with SSDs. Remember; all components along the entire data path affect subsystem performance. SSDs virtually eliminate mechanical latency of the disk drive, but overall performance will continue to be impacted by things like internal bus speeds, read/write electronics, host port speeds and so on.
In part 2, I'll look at a few more details on our view of SSD and how we see SSD market adoption for enterprise storage shaping up.