Solid-state storage finds its niche


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Still extremely expensive vs. traditional media, solid-state disks can make a convincing economical case for some applications requiring very high IOPS.

With the cost of hard disk storage falling to $0.50 per gigabyte or less, the International Securities Exchange (ISE) in New York City decided to buy a 128GB storage system that lists for approximately $85,000 or $664/GB. While that sounds shocking, the company considers it a smart move.

"We have a very latency-sensitive application [that handles stock trading], and the storage gives us a distinct competitive advantage," says John Ryan, ISE's technology architecture officer. The solid-state disk (SSD) system from Texas Memory Systems Inc. handles reads and writes in 0.02 milliseconds (20 microseconds), which is orders of magnitude better than the fastest hard disk drives (HDDs).

The SSD system that ISE selected is based on double data rate (DDR) DRAM technology and comes integrated with battery backup, a Fibre Channel (FC) interface and conventional hard drives. This SSD technology has been around for years and has established itself in a niche market that serves large processing-intensive government projects and companies involved in high-volume, high-speed/low-latency transactions such as ISE's stock trading system.

Organizations use SSD as large cache to boost performance by pulling data from

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what amounts to memory, rather than from much slower spinning disk. The SSD industry regularly takes advantage of the falling prices of memory and storage, which allows organizations like ISE to purchase 128GB of SSD storage at a price that's high but justifiable. However, even SSD proponents admit that DRAM-based SSD systems are far too expensive for use in terabyte-sized systems.


This was first published in November 2007

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