Effect on Storage Market
So, what does the Jan. 14 announcement mean to the storage market in general? Plenty.
"Well, I think we all knew something was going to happen soon [with regard to flash moving into storage arrays], but I don't think anybody saw this coming [in January]," Mark Peters, storage analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group, told eWEEK. "It's great to see EMC doing it, too -- they're not always the first out of the gate on these things."
Flash drives can store a terabyte of data using 38 percent less energy than traditional Fibre Channel disk drives, Pund-IT analyst Charles King and Mesabi Group principal David Hill wrote Jan. 14 in a special report.
"Since it would take about 30 15,000-RPM Fibre Channel disk drives to deliver the same performance as a single flash drive, this translates into a dramatic 98 percent reduction in power consumption to achieve similar transaction-per-second performance," Hill and King wrote.
"With flash drive technology in a Symmetrix DMX-4 storage system, a credit card provider could clear up to six transactions in the time it once took to process a single transaction," they wrote.
"Overall, EMC's efforts could significantly alter the dynamics of the flash SSD market, where stand-alone flash storage systems have been available only from smaller vendors -- notably Solid Data and Texas Memory Systems."
Roberto Basilio, senior director of enterprise storage product management at competing Hitachi Data Systems, told eWEEK that "EMC is primarily playing catch up with this announcement. Hitachi was the first tier one storage vendor to support thin provisioning when we launched the USP V in May of last year.
Basilio added: "As far as the flash drives, we're not seeing very many requests from customers to support this technology at the moment. We believe EMC is really serving the needs of the few here."
Basilio and HDS Chief Scientist Claus Mikkelsen both said they thought the market for high-end flash SSDs was far less than 1,000 companies worldwide.
"It not even a niche -- it's just a minute part of the market," Mikkelsen said. "Anyway, we've been there and done that. SSDs certainly have improved a great deal from the 1990s -- back then they were volatile, now they are non-volatile -- and give EMC credit for moving ahead. But when potential customers find out the high prices and the other limitations [of flash] become apparent, things will cool off."
Tom Coughlin of San Jose, Calif.-based Coughlin Associates, a longtime flash storage expert who puts on the Storage Visions conferences several times per year, told eWEEK that "this isn't really that new -- having flash in enterprise storage systems. [Solid-state] DRAM has been used as part of the enterprise storage hierarchy for quite a while."
In fact, Xiotech, of Eden Prairie, Minn., has been offering DRAM-based SSDs for over a year as part of its Magnitude 3D virtual storage cluster.
"I see this as a reflection of flash moving into the space formerly occupied by DRAM. The price will come down quite a bit, although it's still expensive," Coughlin said.
Peters of ESG said that as time goes on "we'll see more and more stuff [in data centers] that doesn't spin. I think EMC is creating a space between themselves and their competitors. It'll be interesting to see how they catch up to this."