EMC, the largest external data storage vendor, announced yesterday that it has started selling a high-end flash drive for its big-iron storage arrays. Is this the beginning of the end for disks?
The story EMC has sourced a drive from STEC, Inc. a company you may know from their former SimpleTech consumer storage brand. But they sold that off and are focusing on flash Solid State Disks (SSDs).
The ZeusIOPS drive is a drop-in replacement for the magnetic disks in an EMC Symmetrix array. Starting at around $100k and going up to over a million, Symmetrix arrays are a common sight in corporate data centers for high-volume transaction processing.
Since a single SSD can handle more I/O per second (IOPS) than 75 hard drives - 17,000 - the SSD is a good fit for certain I/O intensive workloads such as database transaction logs. I estimate EMC is charging over $25k for a 146 GB SSD, so it better be good for something!
All flash drives are not created equal If you check out my articles on the hype around flash drives (scroll down to the charts) you'll see that I've been critical of the hype around current notebook flash drives. Most come up short in real-life application performance.
But the problem isn't flash - it is the engineering that builds flash into a disk-like product. Flash has major problems - like the requirement to erase an entire block before writing anything to it - that require careful engineering and costly silicon to hide.
The beginning of the end? Not even close. SSDs have been around for decades while disk sales have surged. Using flash makes them more compact and power efficient than the older RAM-based models, but the concept is no different and the performance actually worse than RAM.
What is different is that a major storage company is now going to actually educate their risk-averse corporate customers about the benefits of SSDs. IMHO, it makes more sense to place costly, high-performance storage on a network where it can serve dozens of arrays, rather than just one.
The good news for the rest of us is that the engineering that's gone into these high-end drives will trickle down to our humble consumer SSDs. Then we may see the benefits vendors have been promising us for years.
Comments welcome, of course.