Cloud

Sun to offer solid state drives as an option

Sun is predicting that flash is poised to be the next big thing where servers are concerned. Despite the considerably higher cost of solid state drives (SSD), Sun is arguing that they are really cheaper for high-performance I/O intensive applications. As such, it will be releasing a 32GB flash storage drive this year as well as making it available as an option with its servers.

Sun is predicting that flash is poised to be the next big thing where servers are concerned. Despite the considerably higher cost of solid state drives (SSD), Sun is arguing that they are really cheaper for high-performance I/O intensive applications. As such, it will be releasing a 32GB flash storage drive this year as well as making it available as an option with its servers.

Not surprisingly, beyond access speed, one of the key advantage that is mentioned has to do with its lower power consumption.

Excerpt from Network World:

“It [SSD] consumes one-fifth the power and is a hundred times faster [than rotating disk drives],” John Fowler, the head of Sun’s servers and storage division, said at a press conference in Boston Tuesday. “The fact that it’s not the same dollars per gigabyte is perfectly okay.”

Of course, it must be cautioned that SSDs is very new to the enterprise. The unspoken question is that no one really knows how well these drives will perform in a high-load write-intensive environment over the long term. This is probably the reason why tier-one hard disk manufacturers like Seagate are dragging their feet instead of plunging head-first into churning-out SSDs.

Still, its advantage in terms of lower power-consumption is real. Google is seriously looking into it, and you should definitely keep an eye on it too. What is your opinion of using SSDs in the enterprise?

About

Paul Mah is a writer and blogger who lives in Singapore, where he has worked for a number of years in various capacities within the IT industry. Paul enjoys tinkering with tech gadgets, smartphones, and networking devices.

5 comments
mmalouf
mmalouf

This will be great. I worked with an Air Force testing unit that had solid state devices that record flight data. We tried hard drives but the head motors could not overcome the G forces pulled in flight. Solid state drives will find a great application in aerospace. Personnally, I would like one for my home computer...if I can afford it.

mtoney
mtoney

This is a perfect example of what I talked about in my previous post. Solid state is perfect for data storage. When you can load an operating system into RAM, or run it off of moving drives with no swapping as on Windows based systems, for data storage as in flight recorders, this is the perfect application for solid state drives. Solid state in this case will perform not only solidly and without loss of data, but will also give you unparalleled speeds for recon high speed photography and various other flight recorder data that can be captured and written. The data is largely one way. Write only, or read only, these drives work superb. The issues come with excessive I/O both directions as I explained in my scenarios in building servers using various different solid state drives. They work as long as they are not put under duress. When the load becomes high the logic is too fundamental to control buffering read/write functions, or handle simultaneous read/write and I have had some crazy results. For instance, in several cases case I had an infinite number of folders created with the same name... as if during a delayed write, the process looped and created thousands upon thousands of folders named Data. The result was M:\data\data\data\data\data... you get the point. Another result was in the middle of a read operation, a file was attempting to be written to swap file. The file was written with a special character because of lack of I/O time. This made the swap file unreadable and the session blue screened. Moreover, it would not boot back up until I booted into a "real" installation and deleted the swap file so that the system could recreate the swap file with a name it recognized because when it tried to create the new one with the corrupt one still on the flash drive, there was not enough space on the 16 GB flash drive for Server to Start. Also 32 GB flash drives with partitions to try to segment this active data often makes the problem worse. And spanning volumes across multiple 32 GB solid state drives DOES work, albeit not with Windows native software partitioning. But the use of these large volumes in spanning, introduces some additional writing issues. A corruption on one is inherited across all drives. RAID is VERY interesting on Solid State drives. The failure (by pulling a drive) causes NO slow down or performance loss that you see in moving drives because the information is being handled in a solid state drive, it is nearly as fast as RAM. This is highly desirable. But corruption, is VERY likely in writes. The system works GREAT in reads, but writing to the disk while it is rebuilding from parity information is like playing with fire. You WILL get burned. At least with todays technology. But once the replacement is put back in, the rebuild time is 1/100th of the time it would take a spinning disk to rebuild. The possibilities are endless. So, in air force applications such as this, where it is mostly write oriented, solid state is ideal. Servers that can segment drives as OS as majority read, and another set as majority write, solid state will work magic. Integrated systems lack only one thing to become the drives of future computing, and that is logic. We need to include logic to handle the IO, and more than 5-7 pins of the USB or Firewire standard to control these solid state drives to make them truly able to handle simultaneous reads and writes. Once that happens, RAID, volume spanning, speed of read and writes, drive corruption will become a thing of the past and you will no longer see 10K or 15K SCSI drives. Everyone will ask for Solid State drives, blade servers will be more practical because you will finally be able to get a blade server to match my HP 580 G3 Quad Processor boxes with 32 Gb of RAM and 2.6 TB of disk space. I will be able to build MSA1500 SANS the size of a 1U server. There is your future. But in the meantime, space, planes, ships, construction sites, and other areas that need drives impervious to movement will benefit NOW from the SWolid State phenomenon. I enjoy seeing how many OS'es I can get to run on them transparently, and it is very cool to be able to turn ANY machine on the network into my network sniffer with a simple network reboot, which the solid state option gives me. Long live the flash drive. THE Engineer. windowsmt60@hotmail.com (Look for white papers coming from THE Engineer coming to a web site near you soon.)

paulmah
paulmah

Still, its advantage in terms of lower power-consumption is real. Google is seriously looking into it, and you should definitely keep an eye on it too. What is your opinion of using SSDs in the enterprise?

mtoney
mtoney

My thoughts are that the instability of these flash drives is still a problem. There will have to be considerable manufacturing hurdles that will have to be attacked aggressively to ensure that writing over long-term to these devices is capable of maintaining stability or is even possible at all. Some additional logic will need added to the drives as well. Flash, by nature introduces some unintended side effects when the system allocates memory dynamically on these drives such as swapping, or paging of any kind. This kind of I/O on the disk increases the chance of data corruption on these often very thin logic enhanced boards. I have done MUCH testing with OS'es making bootable datakeys and flash disks, including MINI-ITX systems that are dedicated servers. These systems work acceptably in most situations when they are set up as single drives, but if you introduce any kind of volume spanning, RAID configurations, etc... you run into additional challenges. Also, the systems I have built run much better with current technology when the flash disks are used only as data storage, or as read-only storage for the OS. This way the operating system limits its paging, and active uses of the disk that can lead to more corruption of data. I believe that you should be a slow adopter if you have a critical application. What this WILL benefit is blade servers and other integrated devices and appliances and make options for expanding the offerings in them almost infinite. -WindowsMT60@hotmail.com THE Engineer.

JacknSundrop
JacknSundrop

I work for a small business that uses two small servers. It may be more expensive upfront, but with faster speeds and longer usable life, it would make the very large investment in a server much more palatable if you could increase the working life of the server, and then assuming the ssd's are still viable swap them into a new box and not have to worry about a transfer going bad and or using an additional 2 hours of outside IT tech time to accomplish.

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