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Texas Memory brings out PCIe-based solid state

After concentrating on the high end of the enterprise with earlier DRAM solid-state drives (SSDs), Texas Memory adds SSD inside servers to widen its customer base.

Texas Memory Systems Inc. today introduced the RamSan-20, its first PCI Express (PCIe) solid-state disk (SSD) product.

Woody Hutsell, Texas Memory's president, said the RamSan-20 is "a complete storage system on a PCIe card." The drive is intended for use inside servers.

Texas Memory Systems already produces Fibre Channel-attached SSD drives for high-end systems, such as those used in currency conversion and credit card validation. Last month, NetApp certified Texas Memory Systems' RamSan-500 SSD with its V-series open storage system.

The RamSan-20 was developed with all Texas Memory Systems IP and NAND Flash memory, Hutsell said. It is a 450 GB drive that delivers 120,000 IOPS, and is the highest capacity, enterprise-class PCIe Flash card on the market today. However, David Flynn, chief technology officer at Fusion-io, has said his company is working on a 640 GB card.

The RamSan-20 "allows our customers to cover a broader variety of solutions," Hutsell said, "giving them more tools to solve application performance problems."

The SSD drive also utilizes single-level cell (SLC) Flash for increased reliability, and includes on-board management features, he added.

"All of the flash management and wear leveling are on board," Hutsell said. "It doesn't use any server resources to handle managing the flash on the card."

Including on-board management is a key feature, said Jeff Janukowicz, research manager, hard disk drive components and solid-state disk drives at Framingham, Mass.-based IDC.

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"One of the benefits of going to solid-state drives is lower latency, higher bandwidth-types of solutions, and the idea is that you match the processor speed increases with what you can see on the storage subsystem," Janukowicz said. "So not taking away any of those CPU repetitions is certainly going to help optimize the system."

Hutsell said the RamSan-20 is best suited to accelerate applications that require large and fast buffer areas, as well as those that are random access-intensive, including databases, financial modeling, scientific computing and video editing.

The card includes two levels of on-board error protection; error checking and correcting (ECC); and four separate RAID 5 chip sets.

Analysts said Texas Memory Systems is taking steps to move beyond only the high-end enterprise space.

"Texas Memory's customer base has historically been what we would call the very high end of the enterprise storage system," Janukowicz said, "primarily because [the company's] been DRAM based for much of [its] history."

Henry Baltazar, a storage analyst at The 451 Group, said the move actually started with the RamSan-500.

"Texas Memory's first move in [migrating away from the very high-end solutions] was clearly with the RamSan-500, which they launched a year ago," he said. "That was [the company's] first move into Flash, and that gave them a price point around $100,000, which is considerably lower than what they were selling before. The RamSan-500 allowed them to go a little bit deeper into the enterprise, but it was still for high-end applications. Now the RamSan-20 is going to open up their market space even more and give them a price point under $100,000."

Texas Memory Systems expects to begin shipping the RamSan-20 around early May. Pricing is $18,000 for 450 GBs, or $40 per GB. Hutsell said the company is considering a 225 GB drive if there is sufficient demand. Texas Memory Systems is pursuing OEM deals for the RamSan-20, but Hutsell said no agreements are in place yet.

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