Solid-state Chips Away At Spinning Disk

OK, I admit it....I'm beginning to run low on witty puns to act as headings for all the blogs I need to write dealing with the furious rate of news and evolution in the world of solid-state. I'm definitely understanding why some car manufacturers use (and re-use) just model numbers for their much easier than coming up with a name!

Anyhow, as solid-state (in its multiple forms and various implementations) is beginning to build a real beach-head in the storage world, one can sense that the focus for vendors is somewhat less on out-and-out performance (and convincing users that they need it) and instead it is somewhat more on up-and-up functionality (convincing users that solid-state-based/enhanced systems can genuinely compete with existing spinning disks). They are chipping away at the functionality, even as they exploit the direct (but more limited) performance-only-opportunities.

Just to provide some recent examples of this -

  • Kaminario just introduced its DataProtect package, including enhanced in-system HA, non-disruptive operations and blindingly fast, high volume data replication abilities. There were existing data protection aspects in the K-2 (striping and mirroring) but it previously felt very much as if they were a [good] part of what the system needed to operate; now the capability is extended and the terminology feels far more about what users need to function...the 'enterprise' focus is clear.
  • Late last month Nimbus added extended functionality to its offerings, with a heavy use of the 'enterprise' terminology - that is, no single point of failure, active-active modules and so on. While Nimbus sports a broad range of capabilities, its approach is also interesting and differentiated....basically saying 'look, not only do we have all the functional credentials, but we'll also go toe-to-toe on a straight $/GB total operational cost. If it can get good market traction, then that attitude will certainly stir the pot.
  • Just today the venerable - yet gradually and noticeably re-invented - Texas Memory Systems has announced both a new hardware platform (the Ramsan 820 is an eMLC version of the existing Ramsan 720, designed for read-heavy workloads, and having in-system HA) but, more significantly, also a renewed focus on its software (the aptly named Ramsan-OS) which is dedicated not just to handling speed but also - you guessed it - to providing enterprise levels of data protection.

The groundswell is broad. When SMART (that went private late last year) announced its new Optimus Ultra SAS SSD last week the announcement contained all the usual specifications you'd expect but the emphasis was definitely on the endurance, reliability and its Guardian Technology Platform that is all about making the SSD media 'enterprise' grade. This, and the systems vendors above, are just recent examples; there are plenty more. I wrote last week about the move by SanDisk to buy FlashSoft, a surprisingly early (and appealingly logical) take-out of a solid-state cache and management software-only start-up. The point is simply that the battle-lines are shifting. Partly that's because solid-state is generically gaining market acceptance as not just useful but also as something that is becoming more economically justifiable. But such maturity is also driving a desire by solid-state vendors (which of course ironically includes most of the incumbent storage systems providers as well as the tranche of specialist start-ups) to really change the view of their product from being a specialist add-on to being fully mainstream....and that demands at least functional equivalence to the traditional approaches. Maybe that's something to get my 'single level cell' brain spun up about!?

You can read Mark's other blog entries at The Business of Storage.

Topics: Storage IT Infrastructure