Flash set to fire up enterprise storage

Flash will become integral to enterprise storage in three to five years' time, as prices drop to about twice that of magnetic disk drives, says NetApp executive.

Flash will become mainstream in the realm of enterprise storage within three to five years, according to an executive from storage technology vendor NetApp.

Jay Kidd, NetApp's chief marketing officer, said Wednesday that flash will become "an integral part" of the enterprise storage infrastructure as soon as the price of flash approaches that of disk storage.

At present, flash's cost per gigabyte is about five to 10 times more than disk drives, explained Kidd in an interview with ZDNet Asia. But, performance-wise, flash is about 50 times better, he pointed out.

The turning point is when flash prices fall to about twice that of disk storage, said Kidd, adding that it would take three to five years for the scenario to be realized.

Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Kidd noted: "The total amount of development going into making flash less expensive is enormous."

Jack Yu, IDC's senior analyst for storage in the Asia-Pacific region, agreed that flash with its advantages such as low latency, would increasingly be adapted for use in the enterprise server and storage environment over rotating hard disks. Over time, hard disk drives are becoming less capable to meet the increasing server computing demands, he noted.

Costs aside, Yu added that there is also concern on the technology front that flash is susceptible to a wear-and-tear process.

NetApp's Kidd, however, explained that although a block of flash is said to fail after about 100,000 writes, there is software already available in the market to address this problem. According to Kidd, NetApp's Write Anywhere File Layout "never writes data to the same place".

Solid-state drives not meant for enterprise storage
Solid state drives (SSDs) are not likely to play a big role in the enterprise storage environment.

Describing SSDs as a "stop-gap measure", Kidd said that they perform about 10 times faster than traditional disk drives but still lag behind flash as the performance is limited by the way the SSD connects to the system.

SSDs, Kidd pointed out, will have the ability to dominate in the PC and laptop environment, where there are one to two disk drives.

But in multiple disk drive environments, flash would be the way to go, he said.