Sun Microsystems is continuing to expand the integration of SSD flash memory throughout its product line by making the technology available in its servers and blade systems. In addition, Sun also made its Open Flash Module available to the OpenSolaris Storage communities, and promised to soon release a family of SSD-based storage arrays. SSD flash technology promises higher performance and greater energy efficiency, which is fueling the burgeoning competition in the SSD market.
Sun Microsystems is putting solid-state disk technology into its portfolio
of servers, the latest step in its push to make the flash technology available
in all of its products.
In addition, Sun announced March 11 that it is releasing the design of its
own Open Flash Module into the OpenSolaris Storage communities, a move that
will enable developers in the communities to innovate on the flash memory
standard. The communities can be accessed here
The moves come less than a year after John Fowler, executive vice president
of Sun's Systems Group, began
telling customers, analysts and journalists
that the company-convinced of
the promise of performance increases and greater efficiency over traditional
hard drives-would integrate SSD technology
into all of its hardware, and optimize its software for it.
Fowler also promised that Sun would build services around helping businesses
deploy flash memory technology.
Sun began the journey several years ago, when it started optimizing its
software for flash. For example, Sun designed its Solaris ZFS file system to be
optimized for SSDs, said Jason Schaffer, senior director of storage products at
Sun has since done the same with other software products and in November
rolled out the Sun Storage 7000 Unified Storage Systems, which featured
integrated flash technology.
Now the company is doing the same with its x64 servers and blade systems,
powered by multicore chips from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices, as well as by
its own UltraSPARC processors. In addition, Sun's CMT
(chip multithreaded) servers run UltraSPARC chips. Certain x64 and CMT
systems are available for free 60-day trials through the company's Try and Buy program
Sun officials also said they will soon roll out new Open Storage offerings,
a family of high-performance, energy-efficient storage arrays based on flash
All that work gives Sun a leg up in the increasingly competitive space of flash
memory, Schaffer said.
"The marriage of hardware innovation and software [SSD
integration] really eases the use of flash technology [for customers]," he
SSDs, which first were found in such devices as Apple's iPod, use
enterprise-class flash memory to store and retrieve data, enabling read/write
response times that are about 30 times faster than the current highest-quality
hard disk drives. Because they have no moving parts, SSDs require much less
power to run and mechanical breakdowns are essentially nonexistent.
Sun officials say their approach to SSD
integration into software and hardware products enables businesses to get 65 times
faster response times, up to eight times better throughput and up to 38 percent
less power consumption than systems with traditional hard drive disks.
The challenge for Sun and the host of other vendors-from Intel to EMC
to just about every other major storage company-that want to exploit flash
technology is to persuade notoriously conservative enterprise storage customers
to switch to SSDs.
Schaffer said that when talking to customers, he points to the significant
performance jumps in servers when switching from traditional hard drive disks
to SSDs, and greater efficiency in the storage area. The ability to increase
performance while improving efficiency is particularly important given the
"[IT administrators] are under tight business constraints," Schaffer said.
"But nobody is saying, -Stop making data' or -Stop running applications.'"
Industry observers also see a lot of promise in the flash memory space. In
June 2008-just months before the recession really kicked into gear-research
firm IDC said the SSD
space was a $400 million market in 2007, and that revenues were destined to
grow 70 percent between 2007 and 2012, and unit shipments by 76 percent during
the same span.
The space continues to attract big names. Most recently, Apple co-founder Steve
announced in February he is joining startup Fusion-io, which
makes compact solid-state storage arrays.