I’ll admit it - I’m extremely envious of our storage analyst - Gene Ruth. I’ve heard our analysts call storage "borage" because it just didn’t change that much in the past decades. Yet SSDs have emerged as a (the?) disruptor that the enterprise storage market hasn’t seen in years, making us all envious of Gene’s job.
Outside of work I’m a hardware enthusiast. I buy and build systems not because they’re needed, but because I relish the whiff of solvent that comes with the opening of an anti-static bag. Newegg (www.newegg.com) has been selling consumer-level SSD devices from OCZ, Patriot, Kingston, and others for several years, long before we saw serious enterprise offerings from Intel, Hitachi, and Samsung. It’s amazing to see consumer-level vendors announce an SSD, sell it for ~4-6 months, and then announce a replacement model with increased performance at reduced cost. I’ve been lurking, waiting for that right moment when price drops and performance increases. Along the way I’ve learned quite a bit about SSD OS tuning and benchmark limitations. Simply stated, there are alpha geeks among us who spend more time tweaking their SSD than actually storing files, and who are obsessed with finding the optimal block size or registry setting to extract the most from their investment. For example, when OCZ users were puzzled by strange benchmark performance results, they dug deep - just take a look at this post.
Today I came across this review of ACard’s ANS-9010 Serial ATA RAM disk. The ANS-9010 is a 5.25" device with 8 240-pin DDR2 slots, two SATA 3 connectors, a small battery, and a CF slot for backup. Stuff it full of your favorite RAM ($100 per pair of 4GB), and you have a SSD that is as fast or faster than the Intel X25-E Extreme SSD - in some cases by 2x, especially on large files or simultaneous operations - something that’s harder to do on a flash-based SSD like the X25.
My first impression was that this was another Project Pluto - something that technically could be built, but probably shouldn’t as it’s inherently dangerous. Who would store their data on a volatile storage device? Yes, it has a push-button backup/retrieve to the built-in CF slot, but the lithium battery doesn’t have much juice beyond the time it takes to backup the drive. And what are the chances that someone is standing by the device during a power failure, ready to push the backup button? Why would someone spend more money building a device that, overall, is about as fast as an Intel X25-E?
But I realized that I’m missing the point. We’re experiencing tremendous innovation and rapid evolution in SSD devices. It’s highly unlikely that any of our enterprise clients will pitch this device to their boss. But it’s interesting to see innovation around DDR desktop memory and dual SATA 3 connectors for built-in RAID0. ACard has managed, with a bit of duct tape and bailing wire, to outrun Intel’s best SSD on certain benchmarks. I know my fellow hardware enthusiasts will be tweaking this drive to squeeze out every last bit of performance. And who knows, maybe those lessons will appear in a future enterprise devices. Stay tuned.