If it seems that Hitachi Global Storage Technologies is a little behind the curve in delivering SSDs to the enterprise data center, well, you'd be correct. Most of the other storage system makers have had them available as options to replace hard disk drives for months and/or even a few years.
But Hitachi moves a little more slowly, and there are reasons for that. The company has always moved very deliberately -- some critics say too deliberately -- when introducing a new product or service because it requires more testing and quality assurance than most other companies.
Nonetheless, Hitachi GTS Nov. 16 moved into the solid-state age by introducing the Ultrastar SSD400S product line, its first SSDs for enterprise systems.
The new drives, developed in a partnership with Intel/Micron, come in 100GB, 200GB and 400GB capacities with a choice of 2.5-inch 6Gbit/sec SAS (serial-attached SCSI) or 3.5-inch 4G bps Fibre Channel interfaces.
The SSDs are powered by Intel/Micron's 34-nm, SLC (single-level cell) NAND flash memory.
Naturally, the new drives' main attraction is their high I/O performance. Hitachi claims the new SSDs will reach up to 535M bps sequential read and 500M bps write rate on the SAS interface and up to 390M bps read and 340M bps write rates using Fibre Channel.
"There's a general belief in the IT industry that the enterprise-level SSDs won't really begin to take off in volume until the hard-drive guys begin to offer such [enterprise-level] products," Hitachi Vice President of Product Marketing Brendan Collins told eWEEK.
Of course, Seagate, WD, Samsung, Fusion i-o, Pliant, Nimbus, Schooner and several other companies already offer enterprise-level SSD drives and/or complete systems and have made them available for some time.
But Collins said many established companies with large data centers want to see an established system vendor making these available to fit into existing IT systems, so not a lot of rework has to be done.
"The big storage-systems vendors are very eager to see this first product that we're announcing," Collins said. "When we look at the market, we're announcing products that target legacy Fibre Channel systems, so we need to have 3.5-inch, 4Gb FC solution for that [older] market, and we also have to have a 2.5-inch SAS 6Gb, dual port solution for a lot of the newer systems," he said.
"Both of these are compatible with one another. They are also compatible with our existing [spinning disk] hard drive SAS and FC, as well as all of our high-capacity SATA stuff, because they're all designed off the same ASIC and firmware."
Interoperability is a key factor
Interoperability in the data center is one of Hitachi's biggest selling points, Collins said, because being able to drop an SSD in place of a hard drive with little or no fuss allows IT managers and CIOs to protect their software investments.
"What the big OEMs are saying to us is, 'Look, we've spent the last 20 years developing our file system and our software RAID stack.' That's their value-add," Collins said. "Our hard drives -- Fibre Channel, SAS and SATA -- have been optimized to integrate seamlessly into that environment.
"If you come along with an independent SSD [for SAS or FC], typically the big storage OEMs won't take them seriously because they don't have the SCSI protocol knowledge. There is only a handful of guys out there today that have that capability, and they're the hard-drive guys."
Collins said the new UltraStar drives can take petabytes of data written to them and are guaranteed for five years. Hitachi specifies up to 35PB of random writes for the 400GB drive, Collins said, with the 100GB drive taking up to 9PB in its lifetime.
The new drives will be sold exclusively through channel partners, Collins said. Hitachi did not disclose pricing details; the drives will become available in volume in the first half of 2011.