EMC has announced it will sell flash-based solid-state drives for the first time.
Flash-based solid-state drives are currently 30 times more expensive than conventional drives.
Solid-state drives (SSDs), which first gained prominence through use in such devices as Apple's iPod, are considered faster than conventional mechanical drives and more energy efficient, since they have no moving parts, making them an ideal storage platform for portable devices and laptops.
However, at the enterprise level, SSDs have until now been avoided due to their cost.
"The cost of SSDs is about 30 times that of a fibre-channel disk, but that's a small component of the system's price. EMC maintains that, for an average system, the price goes up by 10 percent," IDC Australia storage analyst Graham Penn told ZDNet Australia.
The system will still contain SATA and fibre-channel disk drives in the arrays, which help organisations to execute what industry analysts call "tiered" storage — that is, using a hierarchy of different drives that reflect the value of the information each drive supports.
"Solid state fits very nicely with tiered storage, where you have ATA drives at a very low cost and fibre-channel drives for your transactional storage. For some exceptional tasks you might need solid state," IBRS storage analyst Dr Kevin McIsaac told ZDNet Australia.
According to Isaac, while SSDs have been "bloody expensive", in recent years manufacturers such as SanDisk have been reducing the cost. However, the technology has predominantly been used in the consumer market for PCs.
EMC's first solid-state enterprise offering, the Symmetrix DMX-4 series, will have a very limited market in its early stages, according to IDC's Penn, who expects it will be adopted by financial services and telco businesses, which are the most demanding users.
"Only those organisations that are pushing the limits of current performance would be thinking about this system," said Penn.
EMC also announced the SSD-equipped Symmetrix will come with thin-provisioning software, which enables businesses to assign various drives to applications, depending on their processing requirements.
"So you would identify which apps are pushing the limits and assign the SSDs to those, but you wouldn't want to assign them to long-term archival information," said Penn.
EMC says it plans to release 73GB and 146GB versions of the drives by the end of the first quarter of 2008.