Server Farming

Feb 9 2009   7:59PM GMT

HP to add SSD memory option to servers

Bridget Botelho Bridget Botelho Profile: Bridget Botelho

Frank Baetke of Hewlett Packard’s Scalable Computing & Infrastructure (SCI) organization just gave me an update of what HP is doing to add power efficiencies to its highest performing servers, and one answer is the addition of Solid State Disks (SSD).

Though HP has not made any official announcements regarding the addition of SSD, and Baetkey could not give any details about the release date or which servers will have them, he said SSD is a greener alternative to spinning hard disks because SSD’s have no moving parts that consume power.

Instead of having spinning parts like hard disks, SSD’s are based on flash memory, can be up to hundreds of times faster than hard drives and use less power than traditional hard drives.

Intel Corp., Samsung, sTec Inc., Violin Memory and Texas Memory System are all offering flash SSD products today. Around October of last year, Texas Memory introduced a 20 TB flash SSD module that delivers one million inputs/outputs per second (IOPS), the RamSan-5000, which is essentially an array of flash solid state disks designed for memory intensive workloads and is “designed from the chip level up for better reliability and performance than the types of flash used in low end markets,” according to executive vice president of Texas Memory, Woody Hutsell.

Up until the last year, Texas Memory only produced RAM based SSD because flash based SSD was too expensive to be viable on the market, Hutsell said. “But cost of the media has gone down, and the density has gone up, driven by the consumer electronics industry, so flash has become more competitive with SSD storage arrays.”

Some companies have already begun replacing their hard disks with SSDs to improve the speed of their servers, according to Jim Handy of Objective Analysis, but this is a pretty narrow slice of the market. Uptake is expected to grow; the IDC predicts SSD uptake in enterprise computing will pick up by 2010 and enterprise computing applications will grow from 12% of SSD revenue in 2007 to more than 50% by 2011, but others, including storage administrators, think mainstream adoption of SSD in enterprise data centers will take much longer.

In general though, flash SSDs are a good alternative to hard disk arrays in data centers that use 10,000-100,000 hard disks today, Handy said. “In such a system you might find 1-2% of the hard disks being replaced by SSDs in a ratio of one SSD for every ten hard disks or so.”

Still, if SSDs can bring better performance, lower power consumption, and a smaller footprint for a competitive price today, we will no doubt see more and more server vendors adding SSD options to their x86 boxes.

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