RealTime IT News

SSD Arrival Stokes Excitement

One would think, given the media pomp and circumstance, that solid state drives (SSDs) dropped from the sky last Monday and EMC was the first to scoop them up and integrate the flash-based technology into its Symmetrix DMX-4 storage systems.

In reality, EMC had been wooing the decades-old technology for a few years before bringing its romance into the public venue. And, from all accounts, it seems EMC is one of the best beaus SSD could have asked for in making its enterprise debut.

"This is a big push for SSD into the business class product market," Charles King, principle analyst at research firm Pund-IT, told InternetNews.com. The analyst's exuberance is being heard from more than a few industry experts. Even SSD manufacturers such as Texas Memory Systems are stoked.

"We're excited. EMC's integration is a validation of the technology. Things have really changed," said Woody Hutsell, executive vice president of the company. TMS has been manufacturing SSDs since the late 1970s and began developing flash-based SSDs just about a year ago.

"We've seen good growth in the last six to seven years but this last year we've felt a sea change with flash becoming a more prominent technology and being understood. Then when research firms like IDC started covering flash on the enterprise side it really brought it to the forefront," Hutsell said.

IDC isn't hiding its exuberance either. Research analyst Jeff Yanukowicz describes the EMC move as an "exciting" event that will give SSDs a place in the enterprise. "It's a good technology fit. While there are advantages and disadvantages to the technology it can be a great enterprise technology and we expect to see more moves like EMC's," he said.

It's been the disadvantages, such as the high cost and concerns related to how SSDs would work in the portable computing environment that kept SSD in the shadows. But EMC has toiled for years to get the drives' performance characteristics, reliability, data integrity and availability to the point where the company felt comfortable deploying them in its flagship storage array. The Symmetrix software manages the drives so they will appear as "plug and play" and "fully interoperable" to users.

The advantages, says one industry pundit, will clearly drive other big OEM players like EMC to embrace SSD. Lower energy costs, faster response rates and the chance to get away from mechanical parts found in hard disk drives, are compelling factors.

"Flash drives are the wave of the future and the harbinger of things to come with storage technologies," said analyst Joe Clabby, president of Clabby Analytics.

Given the competitive market landscape SSD manufacturing is predicted to increase and the demand will drive the costs down which will then push greater enterprise adoption.

"It wasn't that long ago that the hard drive cost was in the two to three thousand range," recalls King, and, with flash costs dropping an average of 50 percent every 12 months, SSD's price will clearly become less of a hurdle, adds IDC's Janukowicz.

Last July, an IDC report predicted SSDs were ready to hit the mainstream and that the technology's performance and mobility-related requirements will push SSD revenues from $373 million in 2006 to $5.4 billion by 2011.

"We expect to more and more players like EMC go this route. It's an exciting time," the analyst said.