SanDisk jumps into enterprise SSD market

It took a while but the company has entered the market in a big way.

SanDisk has finally jumped into the enterprise flash market, after many years on the consumer end of things, and it's doing so in a big way with a huge storage array at a competitive price.

SanDisk's foray was inevitable, not just because the market potential. IDC projects enterprise flash storage, both hybrid and pure flash, will reach $11.3 billion last year. SanDisk's arrival was also a foregone conclusion when it bought Fusion-IO last year, a maker of flash arrays for the enterprise.

And what a launch it is. SanDisk has introduced InfiniFlash, a 3U enclosure with 512TB of raw flash capacity, making it the densest storage system on the market. For now. Even better, SanDisk can price InfiniFlash at under $2 per GB, much lower than what's on the market now. IDC projects enterprise flash to reach $2.88 by next year, so SanDisk is already ahead of the trend.

The InfiniFlash line has three models. The IF100 is the entry level model aimed at open platforms and designed for OEMs and hyperscale customers with their own software platforms. The IF500 is aimed specifically for object storage using Ceph, an open source object storage system which is designed for very high capacity clusters and is especially popular with OpenStack users. The top-of-the-line is the IF700, built on Fusion-io's ION platform designed for enterprise applications and databases.

The only major key difference between the three is that the IF500 and IF700 come with InfiniFlash operating system, while the IF100 is hardware only. The models all come with either 256TB or 512TB of storage in 8TB cards arranged inside the unit. SanDisk claims over 780K sustained IOPS on the arrays, which is orders of magnitude faster than anything a hard drive array could manage.

SanDisk laid out three major potential markets for the new arrays: Big Data Analytics, Content Repositories, and Media Streaming. In all cases they need massive amounts of throughput and fast access to content with high data transfer rates.

The company is making a bold move with InfiniFlash. SanDisk is a flash memory maker now going into the flash storage array market. Most memory makers have shied away and let storage array experts like EMC, IBM and HP do that work. That's how it worked in the hard drive days. Western Digital, Seagate and others provided the drives, the big iron companies made the arrays, and never the twain shall meet. Can you imagine the ruckus if WD decided to sell storage arrays?

SanDisk is also throwing out the sales rulebook as well. It said it will work with its OEM partners to sell the arrays, but it also plans to leverage its relationships with channel partners, value-added resellers and system integrators to sell InfiniFlash and other SanDisk flash-powered solutions for enterprise and hyperscale customers. That could result in a few toes being stepped on as well.

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