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Status report: Solid-state storage

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HP’s 3PAR arrays use adaptive optimization to seamlessly blend the SSD and Fibre Channel (FC) HDD tiers in the array. Datapipe Inc., a managed services vendor in Jersey City, NJ, uses 3PAR arrays to handle the requirements of a diverse set of customers. Datapipe offers SSD as a value-added option to customers who need additional I/O performance. “SSD isn’t cheap, so you really need to get a bang for the buck,” said Sanford Coker, Datapipe’s director of storage administration. He recommends host-based flash memory when possible. In many cases, Coker will deploy SSD for database applications to support a wide variety of industries, from financial and pharmaceutical to new media and cloud. SSD is indispensible to him when a guaranteed I/O level is required.

Dataram Corp., a 44-year-old firm best known for RAM products, is one of the companies promoting cache tiering with its XcelaSAN appliance. One use case for this cache tiering device is adding I/O capacity to existing configurations. By adding a small amount of SSD, Dataram believes customers can avoid more costly upgrades to tier 1 and tier 2 arrays. Moreover, they claim to be able to deliver the same aggregate I/O and capacity of FC storage with a cheaper combination of SSD and SATA devices.

Boot storms. An excellent app for networked storage is virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) support. VDI causes “boot storms” during periods of high user system start up, and because that activity

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is a purely read application, it’s ideal for the extreme I/O performance of SSD. Deduplication, as in the case of NetApp, reduces the cost of solving this problem.

Data location and hybrid cloud. Solid-state technology can also be used to position data closer to the user to reduce data access latency caused by distance. This will usually involve an SSD appliance rather than a PCIe card or just another tier. The Demand-Driven Storage architecture on Avere Systems’ FXT SSD arrays is an example of such an implementation. FXT arrays can be used with a centralized data center setting, private cloud or hybrid cloud. These arrays can be clustered to provide high availability with Avere’s tiered file system to ensure data consistency.

Automated tiering software can automatically move data between tiers, even over a wide-area network (WAN), so the most frequently accessed data is moved to the location or locations where it’s in high demand.

One application that fits well into this use case is on-demand video streaming. Datapipe supports these types of applications for some of its customers. “When a new video comes out, it gets a lot of hits. By elevating these videos to a solid-state tier, we can handle a lot more data requests in a shorter time span resulting in better user experiences,” Datapipe’s Coker said.

All solid-state storage. Not many people consider an all-solid-state infrastructure, assuming the cost would be prohibitive. Nimbus Data Systems hopes to change that perception. Nimbus designs its own eMLC flash memory units and offers them with the aforementioned five-year warranty. However, to make an all-solid-state product comparable to those offered by more established array vendors, you need the accompanying software to support the platform. Nimbus includes the storage operating system, RAID, deduplication, snapshots, thin provisioning, replication and mirroring. Nimbus claims its systems require up to 80% less power, cooling and rack space compared to a 15K rpm HDD system. An all-solid-state storage infrastructure may not replace high-capacity HDDs for near-line or archive storage, but it may be the right choice for I/O-intensive applications.

SOLID-STATE STORAGE USE CASES

Enlarge SOLID-STATE STORAGE USE CASES diagram.

This was first published in October 2011

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