Sun Also Rises on SSD

Sun Microsystems (NASDAQ: JAVA), EMC (NYSE: EMC) and Seagate (NYSE: STX) are all headed down the path to solid state disk (SSD) flash technologies, but unlike its competitors, Sun believes it’s not enough to just swap out storage disks to gain the benefits of SSD.

The company aims to integrate SSD flash into Solaris and other open source storage technologies.

Sun’s the third major storage player to go SSD. Its effort follows EMC’s initial splash into enterprise SSD earlier this year, when it announced it was adding the drives to its Symmetrix DMX-4 storage system. Sun, however, says it’s the first to cement end-to-end flash-based storage into its portfolio.

Its Sun Storage Flash Arrays, due later year, will play a huge role in planting flash in every server by 2011, the company reports.

“This approach brings the promise of huge increases in performance and reduction in overall power needs,” Graham Lovell, Sun’s senior director for open storage, told

“We believe that by end of 2010 every device shipped will have some sort of flash, putting it across tiers of storage and components,” he added.

Although flash technology brings lower energy costs, faster response rates and the chance to move from mechanical parts found in hard drives, some compelling challenges have held flash at bay from the storage infrastructure.

The top one is price as flash can cost as much as 30 times more than Fibre Channel drives for a response time that is 10 times greater. The cost of flash has been steadily decreasing 50 to 70 percent each year, however.

In a report last summer, IDC (NYSE: IDC) predicted SSDs were ready to hit the mainstream and that the technology’s performance and mobility-related requirements would push SSD revenues from $373 million in 2006 to $5.4 billion by 2011. Such revenue expectations would propel more vendor activity with SSDs, according to the report.

Sun’s latest news is evidence that prediction is starting to come true.

“This isn’t the end of disk drives,” Lovell said, adding that SSDs accelerate existing disks. “It’s going to have a huge impact in terms of lower consumption and dramatic improvements in power requirements.”

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