Hitachi GST and Intel announced today a joint effort to develop enterprise class SSDs. The announcement states that Hitachi will deliver both SAS and fibre based SSDs for high performance applications using Intel's 34 nm NAND technologies. Based on conversations with both Intel and Hitachi, Intel will own the NAND facing firmware and logic, while Hitachi will own the computer facing interface logic. Expect then to see SSD performance similar to or better than the current offering from Intel. The SSD capacities are not determined but will target capacities not unlike what fibre enterprise disks offer today - although probably on the low end of the range.
While not surprising, the addition of a tier 1 vendor to the enterprise SSD market is welcome news. More competition will accelerate the introduction of SSDs into enterprise storage systems and offer choice - choice that is still lacking in this market segment. Although, in this case this is largely an Intel show.
I've commented on past blogs that the lack of top tier vendors is inhibiting the introduction of SSD based storage subsystems. Hitachi brings credibility, not to mention the intent to offer high performing interfaces. The addition of SAS (they claim 6G SAS) enhances potential for leveraging the extreme data streaming and transactional rates that well designed SSDs are capable of. The announcement is a recognition by Hitachi GST that SSDs stand to play a significant role in enterprise storage whether they are located inside a server or a storage system. While this is significant news for those looking for data center class drives capable of delivering on the high transactional performance of SSD NAND technology, patience is necessary.
The question is: when will the Hitachi SSD's be available and what storage system suppliers will be first to market with them? The announcement claims availability in early 2010, OEM sampling at the end of 2009. Given that this is a year out, you can bet (or hope) that development is well underway. From my experience, typical development cycles, particularly for new stuff, can extend into a two year time frame from product conception to final qualification and volume delivery. Hitachi should not develop SSD's in a vacuum; they claim intent to cooperate with storage system vendors to set design specs but surprisingly have yet to have held serious internal discussions with the Hitachi storage systems folks.
It will be interesting to see who first announces Hitachi SSD's in their server and storage systems - will it be Hitachi's own storage system group?, or IBM? or EMC?, maybe HP?, we'll see. Whoever it is this is good news for the industry - a SSD industry that's just getting off the ground.
Expect more major players to join in on the SSD games. Where's Seagate? or Fujitsu? its only a matter of time before other major hard disk manufacturers face the reality of SSDs and join the game or retire from the field. Those 10 and 15K rpm enterprise drives are heading towards retirement over the coming years once enough cost effective enterprise SSDs become available from the large hard disk suppliers.
What do you think about the significance of this announcement?
Posted by Gene Ruth