Solid-state storage nears prime time


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Other NAND controller developments include media vendor Imation partnering with Mtronstorage Technology Co. (which makes SSD controllers), and newcomers Pliant and Fusion-io working on SSD products.

Amyl Ahola, CEO at Pliant Technology, says its proprietary flash architecture will include a controller and related firmware, shipping in Q4 of this year. "What flash will be doing," he says, "is in many cases taking over high-performing applications and relegating hard drives to what they're best at: very low-cost storage and sequential operations as opposed to random operations."

Fusion-io's NAND flash product will debut later in 2008, says CTO David Flynn. He thinks the logical way to use flash isn't behind a RAID controller, but plugged into the server. "The pain point is this disparity between the CPU and memory complex, and the disk storage on the back," he says.

But solid state isn't a must-have for storage managers yet. Despite dropping costs, it's still too expensive for many businesses. "It totally makes sense" to use flash, says Bill Montgomery, manager of information systems at Lulu.com, but cost is the major barrier. "It's barely on the edge of our radar."

Peters sees a tipping point at which people will be willing to pay more for flash. "You can have either a solid-state device that is very small, very fast, with very low energy consumption, or you can have

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spinning things," he says. "Ultimately, why do you need things that spin?"

--Christine Cignoli

This was first published in May 2008

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