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New player takes innovative approach to solid-state

An emerging company has put a twist on solid-state disks making the technology more affordable.

There's a new kid on the block in the solid-state disk (SSD) market and it promises to make the traditionally expensive technology more affordable.

Cenatek, a privately held company based in Morgan Hill, Calif., emerged from stealth mode on Monday with a new approach to solid-state data storage.

Like other SSDs, Cenatek's Rocket Drive device, due out this September, functions as a hard drive but stores data using memory chips instead of magnetic media. The difference between Rocket Drive and competing SSD products is in the connection. Cenatek's product attaches directly to the system's PCI bus, using standard Dynamic Random Access Memory (SDRAM) to reduce costs and boost data transfer rates. Conventional SSD devices attach to the host computer through channel technologies such as SCSI and Fibre Channel.

Cenatek's goal, according to Founder and CEO Jason Caulkins, is to widen the SSD market by reducing cost and making the technology affordable for use in server appliances and workstations. The company also plans to offer software, hardware and engineering services.

Solid-state storage is applicable in any application that is I/O intensive. According to Mike Casey, Solid Data System's vice president of marketing, solid-state storage can provide dramatically higher performance than hard disk drives. With rotating disk drives the mechanical movements account for more than 90% of the total time that it takes to access data. Solid-state storage has no mechanical latency. It is used to cache the most frequently accessed files in an application to increase overall system performance.

By eliminating the need for writing data to rotating platters along with RAID caching algorithms, data access time is reduced from around 7 milliseconds to about 0.014 milliseconds.

Not only is Cenatek's Rocket Drive smaller than competing devices from Solid Data Systems Inc., and Imperial Technology Inc., ? it's about the size of a small book ? but it is substantially cheaper. Traditionally, SSD products range from $15,000 to $50,000 per G Byte. Rocket Drive is expected to cost from $3,000 to $4,000 per G Byte.

Enterprise Storage Group analyst Tony Prigmore said Cenatek has two advantages on the solid-state playing field. "First, neither Imperial Technology or Solid Data Systems has cornered the SSD market and second, their bus resident architecture - the way they approach performance ? is a fresh idea," he said. "It's an open ball game."

While the direct bus connection is a promising architecture, the proof will be in the pudding. Cenatek's product is on its way to beta testing sites now. "The question is will the jump in performance enough to give them an advantage in the SSD market," said Dan Tanner, senior analyst, storage and storage management for the Boston-based Aberdeen Group.

Let us know what you think about the story, e-mail Kevin Komiega, assistant news editor

For more information:

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