Hitachi to ship SSDs with high-end arrays

Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) Corp. Monday announced it will offer flash-based solid-state drives (SSDs) for its high-end Hitachi Universal Storage Platform V and VM storage arrays.

Roberto Basilio, vice president of storage platforms product management for HDS, said that the SSDs -- expected to become available near the end of January -- will offer hundreds of times the I/O per second (IOPS) current Fibre Channel hard drive technology does. Basilio added that SSDs are likely to become available in HDS' midrange storage array systems in the future.

"One array of solid state disks -- say eight drives -- can give you 40,000 IOPS. To do the same with Fibre Channel disks would require hundreds of drives," he said. Hitachi said pricing for the drives is not yet available, but SSDs are typically up to 40 times more expensive than enterprise-class hard drives. According to IDC, enterprise-class spinning disks cost about 90 cents per gigabyte while enterprise-class SSDs are US$35 to $40 per gigabyte.

"Near term, the high cost of SSDs as compared with HDD-based storage device solutions from a dollar-per-gigabyte perspective will continue to be an issue for SSD adoption in enterprise data centers," said Jeff Janukowicz, IDC's research manager for solid-state drives and hard-disk drive components. "But over time, as SSDs become more affordable, IDC believes system OEMs and users will gain a better understanding of how maximize and capitalize upon the benefits of SSDs."

According to IDC, HDS' announcement shows the possibilities for a high IOPS class of SSDs targeted at tier 0 applications that can use the highest level of fast-access storage. SSDs offer a number of benefits over HDDs, including better IOPS performance, lower power consumption, less heat generation, lower acoustical noise,and form factor flexibility.

HDS' SDD announcement follows similar ones by vendors such as EMC , Sun Microsystems Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co.

Basilio said HDS took its time in rolling out the 3.5-inch SSD drive technology in its high-end storage arrays because there are few suppliers of the technology, there is a relatively limited request for it among HDS's customer base and it wanted to get the technology interface right.

"Hitachi is meticulous about rolling out new technology and we had some mechanical difficulties. We didn't want to provide components that would cause user problems," he said.

As is the case with HDS' competitors, the company will initially offer SSD drives in 73GB and 146GB capacities.

Basilio emphasized that SSDs are complimentary to Fibre Channel drives in high-end systems and will not be a replacement for less expensive traditional hard-drive technology that offers greater capacity. For example, SSDs would be faster for certain database applications, such as mortgage analysis, credit card transaction processing or seismic data rendering. But jobs that require more typical I/O would still reside on Fibre Channel, if not lower tiers of storage.

HDS' Hitachi Storage Command software management suite will fully support its new tier 0 flash-based storage, which allows storage administrators to classify data for placement on different tiers of storage, replicate data and dynamically provision storage with a single set of management tools.

HDS would not disclose from which vendors it is purchasing its SSD technology, saying only it "is committed to a multi-vendor flash-based strategy, similar to traditional hard disk drives." However, industry observers said the company will begin by shipping Intel's line of X25-E Extreme SSD drives with their arrays.

This story, "Hitachi to ship SSDs with high-end arrays" was originally published by Computerworld.

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