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SSD disruptive technology in the datacentre

Fujitsu Siemens Computers' CTO thinks it's coming - by 2010

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For Fujitsu Siemens Computers, solid state disks are a datacentre issue. In our report on its Augsberg VisitIT conferene in October we wrote: "The company's chief technical officer, Joseph Reger, thinks that the performance and economics of flash memory-based solid state disks (SSD) would result in substantial datacentre take-up as soon as 2010."

This was an intriguing idea, running contrary to the prevailing view that SSDs would appear in ultra-mobile devices and laptops before any datacentre penetration. We asked for an opportunity to talk to Joseph Reger and find out more about the reasons for this prediction. Here is the result:

Techworld: Could you discuss the cost per gigabyte trends affecting SSDs?

JR: It's a bit of a complicated picture. As I said at VisitIT the cost difference in all respects will be gone by 2010. In almost all cases the HDD and SSD cost/GB price curves will have crossed. The first curves that cross will be in enterprise storage in 2009 or so; the first to be affected will be Fibre Channel (FC) drives, then serial-attached SCSI (SAS), and then serial-ATA (SATA). By the end of the decade hard drives will have difficulty competing.

There are economies of scale and the speed of development of semi-conductor technology, Moore's Law. We're seeing increases of two times the density and capacity every 18 months or 2 years, faster than hard drive developments.

Flash is also moving from single layer to multi-layer in the cell, increasing capacity. A current problem is that flash has an upper limit of re-writes. What I expect to happen is that with increased capacity there is more opportunity for wear-levelling. The algorithms will also improve and so the problem will become less.

Beyond 2010 I expect SSDs to compete with hard drives in all areas.

Everybody was expecting SSDs first in laptops. I expect a volume market first - enterprise SSD use. Laptop hard drives have a low cost. They will be harder to attack. On the enterprise side, in the high IOPS transaction area, we don't even have to hit the same price. We just have to hit a price point. In this random IOPS area even for a little bit of a premium SSDs can show very impressive performance. Today, SSDs can deliver 200 times faster performance than hard drives.


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