As I've written numerous times here in this blog, storage consolidation plays a vital role in the green IT movement, and solid state storage is often held up as one potential actor that could play a leading role here. That's mainly because of its size and associated energy consumption/reduction patterns. The drawbacks of solid state drives (SSDs) have been, of course, not just the cost associated with them, but the way that operating system software addresses them. Its the age old problem of complex storage management.
A relatively new-ish start-up called WhipTail Tech (hailing from Summit, N.J.) is trying to address this concern. Its answer is the Racerunner operating system, for its SSD-inspired Virtual Desktop and Datacenter XLR8r appliances. (Those products start at $49,000 for 1.5 terabytes of capacity.)
When I spoke with two executives from WhipTail Tech last year, they noted that Racerunner supports faster write operations on its SSDs. It also lays the data blocks differently than they would be handled on other SSD technology, writing into each cell one before writing into other cells. This makes SSDs more logically addressable than has been previously possible. Racerunner also supports in-line data deduplication and compression.
So, why is this green? Because WhipTail Tech contends that one of its Datacenter XLR8r appliances can replace six fully loaded racks of hard drives. That's a substantial savings in terms of energy consumption, not just to run the storage devices themselves but to keep them cool.
Maybe it is best to let a WhipTail customer do the talking. One of the company's accounts is Finkelstein & Partners, which is using a WhipTail 1.5 terabyte Virtual Desktop XLR8r Hybrid configuration. The company has able to get the WhipTail technology for the same cost as a 14 terabyte shelf that the law firm had been considering. In the press release, the company quotes the firm's senior system administration talking about why he chose the WhipTail option:
"For every virtual machine that we house, we need to allocate a specific amount of disk. If we have a virtual machine with 40 gigabytes of space, we need to have that 40 gigabytes of space available on our SAN. That said, multiply by, say 50 virtual machines, you're up to 2 terabytes of storage. With the XLR8r appliance and deduplication, we were able to mitigate that to a major degree. We're talking going from 2 terabytes of traditional storage to about a half terabyte on XLR8r [running all the same stuff] because of the deduplication and compression ratio we're getting with XLR8r."
Here's the complete case study.
As I mentioned right at the beginning of this post, while some enterprise businesses are considering SSDs as a green IT strategy, the cost and management issues associated with them have become a dealbreaker. WhipTail is trying to convince companies to take a deeper look at SSDs as an option, which could help inspire broader adoption across the entire enterprise SSD space. My gut is that 2011 will bring much more activity, not just because of innovators like WhipTail but because Hitachi is going to make a play for this space with technology it developed in conjunction with Intel. That technology was recently shown off at the Consumer Electronics Show, and it is supposed to ship in volume in the first half of 2011. Hitachi's products will compete head to head with products from Sandforce and Toshiba, and they could help open up this market.