Flash Drive Technology Set to Revolutionize Storage Industry
BackBy Deanna Hartley — June 2008
Enterprise storage vendor EMC Corp. integrated flash-based solid state drives, or SSDs, into its core product portfolio earlier this year.
SSDs use flash memory to store and retrieve data, yielding response times faster than the fastest hard-disk drives and requiring dramatically less power to run.
“It’s probably one of the biggest changes in storage media to come along in the last 15 years or so,” said Scott Delandy, senior product manager at EMC. “It’s the beginning of people moving away from traditional disk drives, [or] spinning media, and taking advantage of solid state-based storage technology.”
Delandy outlines the three major benefits of the solid-state flash-drive technology:
1. Performance: The storage device can support 30 times the IOPS, or throughput, of a traditional high-speed, spinning disk drive. Customers with performance-sensitive applications avoid having to configure many spindles to meet their performance need, and go from what would require 30 drives down to a single drive. The SSDs also eliminate latency, so what would take five to 15 milliseconds for a disk response time in a traditional spinning drive can be serviced in less than a millisecond.
2. Environmentals: Because there are no mechanical components in flash drives, they require less power. In a storage array, flash drives can store the same amount of data using 38 percent less energy than traditional mechanical disk drives. But the major energy savings comes from the improvement in IOPS. Going from 30 15,000 RPM fibre-channel disk drives to a single flash drive to deliver the same performance provides a 98 percent reduction in power consumption on a transaction-per-second comparison. Additionally, the weight of a single flash drive is 58 percent less than a traditional spinning drive.
3. Reliability: Transitioning from a spinning disk drive — with ball bearings, motors and moving parts — to solid state-based technology eliminates the moving parts, or potential parts that can break, thereby increasing reliability. Availability is another advantage. The rebuild times for flash drives take minutes instead of hours, and as a result, overall storage becomes more available.
The limitation of flash-drive technology is the current cost-per-megabyte versus traditional disks, Delandy said. But cost points for these flash drives will come down dramatically during the next couple years, and in roughly three to four years, the price points will be consistent with traditional spinning drives.
Delandy admits that flash drives are fairly expensive today, which means that there has to be a specific use case or a performance-sensitive application so customers can cost-justify the premium associated with this “tier zero” class of storage. But as the price points begin to decline, it will open up these drives to a lot more use cases because they will be much more affordable.
Revolutionizing the Storage Industry
EMC CEO Joe Tucci has said that flash memory is the storage technology of the future, and it’s poised to revolutionize the storage industry. According to Delandy, EMC has accelerated the introduction of flash drives into the storage industry following development work, testing and evaluating different vendors that have the technology available. “[EMC has taken] a niche technology and moved that into more of a mainstream type of a storage media,” he said.
-- Deanna Hartley, firstname.lastname@example.org