Texas Memorys SSD Bridges Performance, Price Gap

RamSan-500 drive pairs high-performance DDR caching with low-cost flash memory.

Texas Memory Systems is releasing what officials say is the first combination double data rate and flash memory solid state disk device, designed to provide the capacity enterprises are looking for at a reasonable price point.

Unlike traditional DDR-based solid state disk devices, including the Houston-based companys own RamSan line of products, the new product, called the RamSan-500, pairs DDR caching, which provides high write performance, with flash memory, which offers good read performance. It provides another option for organizations that need better performance but cant afford to put all of their capacity into DDR solid state disk, said Woody Hutsell, executive vice president at Texas Memory Systems.

"This system pairs DDR as cache, just like its used in a RAID system, with flash memory. It gives you the best of both worlds while minimizing the weaknesses of both," Hutsell said. "The weakness of DDR is cost per capacity, but weve paired it with a high-density, lower-cost flash storage. On the flash side, the weakness historically has been write performance, but weve paired it with DDR, which provides very fast write."

With these capabilities, the RamSan-500, announced Sept. 17, boasts more than 16 times the performance of similar capacity hard disk-based RAID systems, while using 30 percent less power.

The product, available in either 1 or 2 terabyte capacities in a 4U rack-mount chassis, can be attached via a SAN (storage area network) with up to eight 4Gbps Fibre Channel ports. It delivers 100,000 I/Os per second sustained random read, 10,000 I/O per second sustained random write, and 2 to 3 Gbps of bandwidth.


Click here to read more about flash memory RAID.

Several forces have combined to make this type of product a possibility, said Greg Schulz, an analyst for The StorageIO Group.

"Traditionally, flash has been popular in the consumer market because of price, but it doesnt have the performance needed for enterprise applications," he said. "But the cost of RAM has come down so much that TMS can position a large RAM cache in front of the flash, negating the performance penalties of flash. All of this has allowed TMS to put together a small form factor, multiple terabyte product that is RAID-protected."

Although other vendors have incorporated flash into storage products, such as Dynamic Network Factorys hybrid solid state disk drive and Seagate Technologys hybrid hard drive, Texas Memory Systems has done it on a larger scale, offering more of a large-scale, turnkey, enterprise class-deployable system, he said.

However, not all situations are well-suited to the new flash-based system. For example, organizations or departments with a multitude of small block random writes that are very sustained, as well as situations with relatively small capacity requirements, DDR-based systems are still appropriate. But systems with very large capacities that dont have a huge number of writes make the flash system a better choice, Hutsell said.

In many cases, its about weighing the cost per performance and cost per capacity, Hutsell said. A terabyte DDR-based solution, for example, can cost up to about $800,000, while the RamSAN-500 in a 2TB version is expected to cost about $300,000.

The introduction of RamSan-500 will open up a broader market to Texas Memory Systems, Schulz said, because it bridges the price gap between solid state and regular storage. "Basically, it will bring solid state-like performance down into the price range of regular spinning disk drives," he said.

Although not yet available, Texas Memory Systems expects to start taking orders for the RamSan-500 from existing customers in mid-September, with delivery by early November.


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