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Analysts give nod to solid state disks for SANs

A research firm gives a thumbs up for the use of use of solid state disk technology to boost performance in storage area networks. But some say, SSD will only take off if vendors can prove users will see a significant ROI.

In a new report, independent analyst firm The Clipper Group Inc., said that applying solid state disks to a storage area network (SAN) topology can eliminate the delay to data access that rotating hard disks inherently create.

When a solid state disk, which is based on random access memory (RAM) rather than magnetic media, is connected to a SAN, it can become a dynamic resource for selectively improving application performance when and where it is needed, said Michael Fisch, senior analyst for the Wellesley, Mass.-based Clipper Group.

Fisch said that many issues can affect overall performance, like the latency of a spinning platter in a hard drive, which becomes an I/O bottleneck.

"I think it's a problem that is going to be emphasized more and more as processor and network speeds grow more quickly [than hard drive speeds]," Fisch said.

Many SAN users turn to networked storage for consolidated their resources and speeding backup operations, but those who are looking for pure performance in transaction processing and intensive database applications can still encounter storage-related performance bottlenecks, even with 2 Gbps Fibre Channel speeds, said Robert David, CEO and president of Imperial Technology.

Imperial announced its version of solid state for SANs this week with the debut of the SANaccelerator, which connects directly to Fibre Channel SANs and is designed to deliver shared capacity to multiple applications and multiple servers in the same way as consolidated disk storage.

SANaccelerator connects to two independent 1 or 2 Gbps fabric switches or directors for up to 400MB/s bandwidth and path redundancy, while built-in utilities allow the system administrator to partition the SANaccelerator into volumes assigned to different ports, different servers, and ultimately, different application needs. A 3.5-in. tall SANaccelerator scales from 6G Bytes to 36G Bytes for less than $60,000.

"The SAN bottleneck is not the network, it is the inherent limitations of rotating disk drives. The SANaccelerator responds to this problem by creating a performance pool that is allocated to changing application requirements in the SAN which affect performance," David said.

Imperial and its competitors Platypus Technology Inc., Solid Data Systems Inc., and others are vying for a piece of a relatively small market -- International Data Corp., (IDC) recently reported the solid state disk market as a $50 million segment of the industry.

The high cost traditionally associated with solid state is not the correct way to evaluate the technology, according to Mike Karp, senior analyst with Enterprise Management Associates Inc., Boulder, Colo.

"The cost of it is not the correct calculation. It has more to do with return on investment and how rapidly you're going to receive payback," said Karp.

The application of solid state to SANs holds the possibility of growing the market potential for solid state technology, but only if it is marketed correctly, Karp said.

"[Solid state] has been a technology success, but it has never been a solution success," Karp said. "These vendors need to prove that there is a short-term return on investment - then they can grow that market."

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


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