Take a look at the video on this link from Gizmodo:
The folks in this video put together twenty-four flash SSDs to create a monster machine – pretty cool and amazingly fast. Faster than has ever been achievable on dorm room budgets. Well, a pretty nice dorm room considering the cost of twenty-four SSDs… maybe these guys drive BMWs….
Watching the video got me thinking – all this is exciting, but for the more reserved crowds working in data centers, it doesn’t do them much good. Except for the most extreme data center, maybe at a university, data centers will not be building their own SSD storage systems.
I’m hearing lots of announcements regarding SSDs but few system vendors are actually delivering anything.
Pillar Data recently announced the addition of SSDs to their systems. Pillar offers “application” aware configuration – a neat idea that uses quality of service to create storage elements. A nice fit for SSDs since, contrary to some thinking, SSDs are not good at everything. Great, but it looks like we’ll need to wait a few months to buy them. Same goes for Compellent – they’ve made some announcements and certainly have an advantage with the way they auto tier data blocks, but there is no wide scale release of products yet. So, unfortunately, the choice of enterprise class storage systems with SSDs is pretty slim.
But I want them now. The clients I talk to every day want them now.
Yes, one can buy enterprise storage systems with SSDs. For the fringe element, both TMS and Violin Memory offer turbo’d flash based transaction boxes. These are fast products to be sure but not for generic applications. For the generically inclined, one can pick up an EMC Clariion system with SSDs in place of HDDs. All well and good, but that’s not the game.
I’ve harped on this before.
We need systems fully integrating SSD capabilities – not just replacing HDDs one for one. Replacing HDDs with SSDs is storage design 101. Easy to do but very suboptimal. Blending an SSD into a system is the real challenge. For general purpose use, there is Sun’s Amber Road line (I like that name). A product that blends SSDs into a HDD storage system. Good for Sun but more is needed.
I’m hoping and guessing that the really interesting designs are being kept deep underground. Makes sense in order to protect secrets and patents. But who will surface first? FusionIO, with their PCIe based SSD is making lots of noise, TMS recently announced a similar product and is teaming with NetApp. Will IBM finally ship their much touted Quicksilver transaction machine? They’ve shown this system, built around their “SAN Volume Controller” at the Fall Storage Networking World. So where is it?
Sun keeps chugging along making announcements and delivering SSD product – see the recent announcement. Besides designing SSDs into their storage products, SSD can now be had in the server line. Excellent. And what’s up with the “Open Flash Module” they’ve mentioned? Hmm, let’s speculate….first, its a duh to design it into a server motherboard – goodbye boot disk – hello flash SSD boot. That should bump reliability and nick away some power. I expect to see this module show up in “mechanically optimized” storage equipment. Imagine the cost savings possible by removing all the cables, power supplies and enclosures needed for conventional HDDs. Making the flash module design “open” is interesting but what will it mean without taking it to a standard’s body? Probably not much unless Sun is planning to become a SSD module supplier. Possible but not likely.
And one last rant– we need more tier one disk vendors to enter the game to make the industry go. Not unlike the number of vendors we see delivering performance HDDs. More SSD vendors equals more competition, more innovation. With competition, SSD performance will be driven beyond what we are seeing now. While the performance of enterprise class SSDs such as Intel’s are impressive, I suspect that that this is just the start. Keep an eye out for better write performance on par with read and less sensitivity to wear.
Expect more experiments like the one at the top of this blog. The computer community hungers for SSDs and is getting impatient.
Posted by Gene Ruth