Kerns: SSD future as primary storage

Solid-state technology has made inroads across the storage space, but so far, SSDs are largely deployed as upgrades for existing storage arrays, although all-flash products have been reaching the marketplace.

But as SSDs become more commonplace and pricing drops, adoption of solid-state as a primary storage option will rise, according to analyst Randy Kerns, senior strategist at Evaluator Group.

"Really, what's going on is that this is going to be our primary storage of the future, and where I want my highly active data is on solid-state technology," Kerns said in this Storage Decisions presentation.

In recent studies from market research firm IHS iSuppli, NAND and NOR flash revenues reached $20 billion last year, with 31 million flash units shipped. Hard disk drive shipments totaled about 475 million, the firm said.

"This is the current technology -- NAND-based," Kerns said. "There are a couple of things about it. Typically, in an unpowered state, NAND flash can retain memory for seven to 10 years. Wear-out typically occurs because you write to it too many times, and most of these flash technologies reserve spare spaces so they can redistribute … and do wear leveling. They tried to get them to the point where they lasted at least seven years by having enough spares to redistribute as they already start to wear out and use a spare from another location."

Kerns said the demand for flash in consumer devices such cameras and smartphones will help contribute to declining solid-state pricing.

"That technology is the volume that drives down the price. Now, from a storage standpoint, what you really want to do is be able to use the same technology from that high-volume media and adapt it for use in storage to take advantage of those price declines. And that's what's going on and that's why these prices are diving at 40% per year -- much greater than disk drive prices are declining right now," Kerns said.

Another contributing factor in wider adoption of solid-state is the implementation of tools to reduce data's footprint in the storage media itself, according to Kerns.

"In solid-state devices -- especially in all-solid-state systems -- you're designing into them some type of data reduction, compression, deduplication. … The [data reduction] average we're seeing for those devices that have this built in is somewhere between five and six to one. So what does that mean? I might pay for a terabyte and I may be getting 5 to 6 TB in effective space with those cells in solid-state," Kerns said.

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