The Steady Advance of SSD Storage

Solid state disk (SSD) in its various forms, including Flash, continues its slow, steady advance into the enterprise. Last fall, IBM released the findings of a customer survey that demonstrates pent-up demand for SSD technology as a successor to flash and hard disk drives (HDD). Customers are embracing high-performance SSD to support growing data storage demands driven by cloud computing and analytics technologies.

In the survey 57% responded that their organization needed a new storage approach to manage future growth. What that new approach might be the respondents were not exactly clear but the survey suggested it would combine increased data delivery with lower costs. Of course, that has been the trend of storage for several decades.

More recently IBM Research has been exploring storage-class memory as a new category of data storage in the form of memory devices that can access data significantly faster than HDD and at the same low cost. Today cost is the rub. SSD continues to be significantly more costly on a cost-per-gigabyte basis than HDD. Most SSD vendors prefer to make any cost comparison in terms of cost per IOPS (input/output per second).

Most high volume IT shops today use SSD as the top performance tier for critical high performance data where IOPS counts most.  The goal is to have a small amount of SSD go a long way by combining it in a storage tiering strategy that uses intelligent automation to quickly detect when that data can be moved to less costly storage.

This is exactly the rationale behind IBM EasyTier, which automatically moves the most active data (such as credit card transactions) to faster SSDs when analytics is needed. Once analyzed, the data can be moved to cheaper storage technologies. This prevents the overuse of costly SSD storage.

Driving the current interest in storage in general and SSD in particular is data analytics. For example, 38% of survey respondents said they primarily want to derive business value from data while 43% said they needed it to manage Big Data, which also comes down to analytics.

To this end IBM has been exploring new approaches and introducing new products. For example racetrack memory, a solid-state breakthrough technology, promises to be replace both conventional HDD storage and SSD flash. As explained by IBM, racetrack memory has no moving parts, using instead the spin of electrons to access and move data to atomically precise locations on nanowires 1,000x finer than a human hair. It combines the high performance and reliability of flash with the low cost and high capacity of HDD. It could enable the storage of 100x more data while using less energy than today’s designs.

Today IBM is delivering the next–generation solid state storage through new solid state PCIe adapters. This is a high IOPS SSD PCIe Adapter based on advanced NAND clustering technology and delivers performance comparable to DRAM but with storage capacity more like today’s hard disks. The result: up to 1000x improvements in both memory capacity and storage performance.

SSD will be a hot topic, you can be sure, at the upcoming IBM Edge 2012 storage conference in Orlando, June 4-8.  SSD will be discussed in both XIV and Storwize sessions, mainly in regard to database performance, where IOPS performance looms large. Check them out.  BottomlineIT will be at Edge Jun 4-6. Feel welcome to introduce yourself. And now for the legal stuff:  this post is sponsored, meaning I am being compensated, by the Storage Community for covering IBM’s Edge Conference.  However, the opinions, attitude, writing here are my own.

Hope to see you in Orlando; find me hanging around the Social Media Lounge when I’m not attending a session.

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