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Solid state disk - revolution or flash-in-the-pan?

Solid state disk - revolution or flash-in-the-pan?

At last month's EMC World, CEO Joe Tucci stood before an audience of thousands and proclaimed solid state disk (SSD) as the next big storage disruptor. Shortly thereafter, I heard a Sun executive predict that by 2010, SSD would dominate the storage industry, or something like that. (see " Sun confirms plan to ship solid-state drives in 2008 ").

I guess I'm a bit jaded. When I was in mainframe leasing, decades ago, I tried to remarket an SSD array that sat idling at the other end of a 3081 channel on some big company's machine room floor. While it was blazingly fast, it went nowhere, even at a bargain basement price. That was back in the day when EMC sold SSD.

EMC might have died if it weren't for a product that integrated RAID disk with SSD and used the SSD part of the system as disk cache. Users glommed onto Symmetrix. SSD? Eh. EMC soon dropped that line.

OK, so this is now SSD's time and place, right? Flash memory can be made machine-room reliable through some new algorithm magic. We should be thinking of work done for dollar paid as opposed to comparing price/performance curves. I get that. But, do users? That's the big SSD question mark.

I was on a conference call with a group of storage administrators recently and happened to mention that I had spent most of the day studying this next iteration of SSD and mentioned that I thought it looked pretty interesting this time around. That comment was greeted with dead silence. The fact is, all the compelling value proposition statements in the world won't move SSD off the dime unless users know what to do with it.

Personally, I think that if SSD is seen by users as Tier Zero in a tiered storage strategy, then the biggest loser is tape because users don't really need another storage tier. They just need more performance.

John Webster is the principal IT adviser for research firm Illuminata Inc. He is also the author of numerous articles and white papers on a wide range of topics and is the co-author of the bookInescapable Data: Harnessing the Power of Convergence( IBM Press, 2005). Webster can be reached at jwebster@illuminata.com.


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